Are Judges Scientific PLC, Standard Chartered PLC And Xcite Energy Limited Value Plays Or Value Traps?

Shares in scientific instrument specialist Judges Scientific (LSE: JDG) have been given a boost today with a trading statement from the company confirming that it’s on track to meet current market expectations.

This is a relief for investors in the company and as a result, Judges Scientific’s shares are up by almost 5% following the news. That’s because it suffered from a highly challenging first quarter. But with order intake recovering to a satisfactory level in the second quarter of the year and being maintained in the subsequent two quarters, it’s now on track to deliver a return to organic sales growth for the full year.

Looking ahead, Judges Scientific is forecast to record a rise in its bottom line of 11% in 2016, which would be a strong result given the difficulties it faced in 2014 and in the early part of 2015. And with its shares trading on a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of 1.2, it appears to offer good value for money for long-term investors.

Positive sentiment ahead?

Similarly, Standard Chartered (LSE: STAN) also appears to be a strong buy at the present time. Certainly, the Asia-focused bank is undergoing a major transition as it seeks to overcome the regulatory challenges it has faced in recent years. But with a new management team and a recent fundraising providing it with the required tools to mount a successful turnaround, it remains a high quality stock for the long term.

Clearly, the Asian economy is relatively weak at the present time. A slowing China and Japan in recession may not bode well for Standard Chartered’s near-term future. But with China in particular likely to demand greater credit as it shifts towards a consumer-focused economy, Standard Chartered appears to be well-placed to benefit.

With the bank forecast to increase its earnings by 28% in the current year, investor sentiment could turn positive and help to reverse Standard Chartered’s share price fall of 45% during the last year. With its shares trading on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of only 10.3, they appear to be a highly appealing value play, rather than a value trap.

Excitement-free zone

Meanwhile, shares in oil and gas exploration company Xcite Energy (LSE: XEL) have fallen by a further 19% today, which brings their total decline in the last year to 69%. Clearly, the fall in the price of oil has severely damaged investor sentiment in the company and in the wider sector, but there are also concerns among some investors regarding Xcite Energy’s financial standing.

Undoubtedly, the Bentley field in the North Sea is a high quality asset, but with Xcite Energy struggling to find a partner to develop the project, its progress appears to have stalled in recent months. This, coupled with substantial debts and a lack of revenue, means that the outlook for the business in a low oil price environment is relatively downbeat. Certainly, a price-to-book-value (P/B) ratio of 0.15 is low, but Xcite Energy could prove to be a value trap, rather than a value play.

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Peter Stephens owns shares of Judges Scientific and Standard Chartered. 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.