Is It The Right Time To Buy Prudential plc, Standard Life plc and Pearson plc?

Here are three attractively priced growth stocks:


Prudential (LSE: PRU) is better known for its life insurance business in Asia, but business in the UK and US is also growing quickly. Together, its UK and US life insurance businesses generate some 76% of the group’s IFRS operating profits. Earnings growth from its US Jackson National Life business has actually been faster than its Asia business over recent years, and it continues to benefit from strong demand for its variable annuities business.

Group operating profits rose 17% in the first half of 2015, with all business segments recording double-digit operating profit growth. Although its Asia business has been hit hard by currency headwinds, new business growth continues to more than offset the impact of currency.

The Pru benefits from a strong geographical mix and businesses across the group are firing on all cylinders. Analysts expect underlying earnings per share (EPS) to grow by 13% this year to 108.9p. For 2016, underlying EPS will grow by another 12% to 122.2 pence. This implies Pru shares trade at 13.8 times expected 2015 earnings, and 12.3 times expected 2016 earnings.

With forward P/E valuations being so low and the company continuing to deliver robust earnings growth, shares in the Pru are unlikely to get any cheaper.

Standard Life

These days, Standard Life (LSE: SL) increasingly resembles an asset management business more than a life insurer. Assets under administration (AUM) has grown 19% over the past two years, and Standard Life Investments now accounts for a majority of the group’s operating profits.

Standard Life’s focus of lower volatility funds should mean its asset management business should benefit from the government’s recent pension reforms. It also benefits from being relatively isolated from currency headwinds and slowing economic growth in emerging markets.

Its forward P/E is 18.5, as analysts expect underlying EPS will grow by 52% this year, to 23.9p. For 2016, analysts predict Standard Life will grow its underlying EPS by another 18%. This should mean its forward P/E, based on 2016 earnings, will fall to 15.7.

Although not as cheap as Pru’s shares, Standard Life’s earnings is projected to grow much faster in the medium term. Furthermore, its dividend yield is far higher. Shares in Standard Life have a prospective 2015 dividend yield of 4.1%, which compares very favourably to the Pru’s forward dividend yield of just 2.6%.


Pearson (LSE: PSON), the publishing and education company, has been going though a rough couple of years, as falling demand for textbooks in North America had led earnings to steadily decline. But, things are expected to turn around. Demand for online services for undergraduate and graduate learning programmes is growing strongly, and growth from here should offset declining print sales.

Analysts expect underlying EPS should recover by 13% this year, to 75.3p. In the following year, underlying EPS is set to grow by another 4%, to 78.6p. Shares in Pearson trade at a forward P/E of 15.8 on its 2015 expected earnings and have an attractive dividend yield of 4.6%.

The sale of two of its trophy assets, the Financial Times and The Economist, releases capital back into its education business. Having achieved a sale worth £844 million for the FT, Pearson managed to sell a business at a pricey valuation of 35 times its operating profits.

Although revenues had been steadily growing at its two newspaper operations, they sat uncomfortably in the group and offered very little synergy with the rest of its businesses. Management is expected to reinvest the proceeds in strengthening its digital education business.

More value-growth stocks?

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Jack Tang has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.