Do Updates From Pearson plc, Countrywide PLC And Premier Foods Plc Confirm Their Turnaround Potential?

Shares in education provider Pearson (LSE: PSON) have soared by 10% today after it provided an update on its turnaround plans. While guidance for 2015 has been downgraded, it also highlighted how it will further simplify its business to deliver improved performance following last year’s profit warning.

On this front, Pearson will invest around £320m in the current year in order to reduce costs and position itself for growth in its major markets. The majority of these changes will take place by the middle of 2016 and Pearson expects them to generate annualised savings of around £350m. This should help the company to achieve its target of an adjusted operating profit of £800m in 2018.

Clearly, Pearson faces highly challenging trading conditions, but its plan to cut costs seems to be both achievable and sound. Despite today’s share price rise it remains relatively cheap, with a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 10.9 and a dividend yield of 7.5%, which is due to be maintained at its current level as Pearson rebuilds dividend cover. As such, and while its shares are likely to remain volatile, Pearson seems like a very strong buy for the long term.

Set to impress?

Also offering turnaround potential is estate agent Countrywide (LSE: CWD). Its shares have fallen by 19% in the last year but are up 6% today due to a slight increase in guidance for 2015. This is due to  an encouraging performance in the final quarter of the year, although Countrywide’s retail and London business units continue to be hurt by current housing market trends that show transaction volumes running 6% lower than the prior year.

With the private rented sector likely to play an important role in the overall residential property market, Countrywide’s focus on this space seems to make sense. With the company’s shares trading on a P/E ratio of just 9.8, they appear to offer a wide margin of safety so that even if trading conditions remain tough, their performance as an investment may be relatively impressive.

Premier plunge

Meanwhile, Premier Foods (LSE: PFD) has also released an update today that shows the owner of Mr Kipling and other food brands increased total sales by 0.1% in the third quarter of the year. That’s despite branded sales falling by 1% as it reduced promotional spend on Ambrosia, but gained from sales of mince pies during the Christmas period. Encouragingly, Premier Foods has maintained its expectations for the full year, but its shares have fallen by 6% today.

Clearly, Premier Foods has a highly leveraged balance sheet and is at risk of falling profitability as interest rates rise. However, the company is forecast to grow its earnings by 19% this year and by a further 3% next year, which puts it on a forward P/E ratio of only 4.2. With a number of strong brands and a reduced likelihood of interest rate rises this year, Premier Foods could be worth buying for less risk-averse investors.

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Peter Stephens owns shares of Premier Foods. 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.