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Why Barratt Developments Plc, Countrywide PLC and Michael Page International plc Should Lag The FTSE 100 Today

The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) is still pretty uninspiring, losing 28 points to 6,729 by mid-morning, reversing yesterday’s 17-point gain for an 11-point loss on the week so far. Pundits everywhere are getting excited about the prospect of the FTSE reaching 7,000 points in the near future — but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this week.

Which companies are holding the markets down? Here are three from the FTSE indices that are falling this morning:

Barratt Developments

Barratt Developments (LSE: BDEV) bucked the upwards housebuilder trend this morning, with a 3.9p (1%) fall to 377p, despite a trading update for the six months to 31 December revealing a 19% rise in total completions during the period. With forward sales for of more than £1.2bn already in the bag, chief executive Mark Clare said “…we are well placed for FY14 and beyond“.

In the scheme of things, today’s small blip is pretty meaningless — the Barratt share price is up nearly 70% over the past 12 months, and we have very strong earnings growth forecast for the next two years.


An update from estate agent Countrywide (LSE: CWD) resulted in a share price fall of 27p (4.4%) to 591p, even though the figures looked reasonable. For the fourth quarter to 31 December, total income was up 25% with full-year income up 11% — with contributions from the recently-acquired Lambert Smith Hampton excluded, that’s 13% and 8% respectively.

City analysts are currently forecasting strong earnings growth for Countrywide, putting the shares on a P/E for 2014 of 17, dropping to 12 for 2015. Dividends of a modest 2% are expected, rising to 2.8%.

Michael Page International

We also had a final trading update from recruitment specialist Michael Page International (LSE: MPI), and again the result was a fall in the share price — of 14p (2.8%) to 475p. Gross profit in Q4 fell 1.2% to £125m, with the annual figure down 2.5% to £513.9m. The firm reiterated its earlier guidance for full-year pre-exceptional operating profit of around £68m.

These are still tough times in the recruitment business, but the firm did enjoy rising gross profits in both the UK and USA — 2.2% here, and 5.6% across the Atlantic.

Despite today’s fall, the shares are still up approximately 18% over the past 12 months, beating the FTSE’s 12%.

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> Alan does not own any shares mentioned in this article.