The Motley Fool

3 Stocks To Pile Into? National Grid plc, Essentra PLC And Millennium & Copthorne Hotels plc

Shares in components and solutions provider Essentra (LSE: ESNT) have soared by over 10% today after it released an encouraging set of results for the 2015 financial year. Even though pre-tax profit fell due to one-off costs, the company nevertheless appears to be performing well despite challenging trading conditions. And with it increasing its dividend, it seems to be confident in its long-term outlook.

In fact, Essentra posted revenue of over £1bn for the first time in its history. This is a major achievement since its specialist technologies division was hit by the downturn in spending in the oil and gas industry, while the acquisition of Clondalkin Specialist Packaging and subsequent site rationalisation measures hurt the company’s margins.

Looking ahead, Essentra is forecast to increase its bottom line by around 15% in 2016. This puts it on a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of just 1.1, which indicates that even though challenges in some of its divisions seem likely to remain, it could prove to be a sound long-term buy.

Expensive hotels?

Also reporting today was Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (LSE: MLC). Its shares are down by around 5% after it recorded a fall in profit and reduced its dividend. In fact, its pre-tax profit fell by 42% versus the prior year, due in part to an impairment charge of £76m on four of the company’s properties. And with Millennium & Copthorne reporting that trading conditions are expected to remain uncertain, it would be of little surprise for investor sentiment to worsen in the short run.

With the company’s shares trading on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of around 18, they appear to be rather fully valued even after today’s price fall. Certainly, Millennium & Copthorne continues to offer long-term growth potential, but it could be worth waiting for a significantly lower share price before piling-in.

Power play

One stock that does appear to be worth buying right now though is National Grid (LSE: NG). It seems likely to gain in popularity for three main reasons. Firstly, it offers supreme defensive qualities during what is undoubtedly a highly uncertain period for the stock market. As such, the company’s valuation could be bid up by fearful investors.

Secondly, National Grid is likely to increase in popularity as a result of a reduced chance of interest rates rising over the medium term. As a highly indebted company, borrowing costs are always a major concern for the company’s investors. With them set to remain low, National Grid’s profitability could hold up better than expected.

Finally, National Grid’s dividend remains relatively high, with it standing at 4.7%. With a loose monetary policy causing income shares to remain in vogue, National Grid’s income potential could cause its share price to rise substantially in the coming months and years.

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Peter Stephens owns shares of National Grid. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Essentra. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.