Should You Buy GlaxoSmithKline plc, AstraZeneca plc & Hargreaves Lansdown plc Ahead Of The Results This Week?

I don’t know about you, but I for one am glad to see the back of January. Despite my personal portfolio’s small-cap growth-oriented construction, I’ve been along for the ride on the turbulent market roller coaster.

That said, the volatility has, in my opinion opened some interesting opportunities. However, as we head into February investors will be updated with both interim and preliminary results from a lot of companies, which could well impact on the share price in either direction.

A quick glance at the 12-month chart shows all three shares under review comfortably outperforming the FTSE 100.

But once we close that chart to a month view, a slightly different picture emerges with only one company, GlaxoSmithKline (LSE: GSK) outperforming the blue-chip index.

Defying the bears?

I’ve been watching shares in pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline for a while now. As I’ve written before, I’ve been conscious of the level of dividend cover falling to less than 1 for the year to December 2015.

However, the market has been marking the shares higher of late, perhaps due to their perceived safe-haven appeal, perhaps due to the possibility that investors are beginning to believe the company’s prospects will improve as its business is reshaped following the deal with Novartis.

Currently, I’m still cautious and will wait for the results as analysts have been marking down their EPS estimates over the last one-month and three-months, albeit by only 1 penny per share, according to data from Stockopedia.

Back on the up?

On the other side of the coin, or brokers’ forecasts to be more precise, we’ve seen earnings estimates rise by around $22m at sector peer Astrazeneca (LSE: AZN). This puts the shares on a 12-month rolling forecast P/E of just under 16 times and the shares are set to yield in excess of 4%.

In addition, it’s pleasing to see that the level of dividend cover is beginning to rise too, with dividend cover expected to increase to 1.55 times for the year ending December 2015 – much safer than the less-than-one-times cover for the previous financial year.

As we can see, the shares have more or less tracked the index over the last month, which leaves me thinking that they’re in need of a catalyst to get them moving in the right direction. Whether this will arrive with the full-year results is yet to be seen.

Paying up for quality?

It’s hard to argue with the returns over the last 12 months delivered to shareholders in investment management firm Hargreaves Lansdown (LSE: HL). The shares have significantly outperformed the index and rightly so in my view.

As I’ve written before, it’s rare to see such quality in a mature blue-chip company. Indeed it’s the quality on offer here that you could argue justifies the eye-watering 32 times forecast earnings price tag that the shares attract.

Despite the quality here, investors may well see the shares hit by the postponement of the Lloyds Banking Group public share sale that was specifically mentioned by CEO Ian Gorham when the company updated the market back in October 2015. Indeed, broker forecasts have been sliding for some time now, and there’s room for some further downgrades should the market fall further. Despite this, the dividend is expected to grow again this year, giving a forecast yield of just under 3%

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Dave Sullivan has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, and Hargreaves Lansdown. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.