Beginners’ Portfolio: Will ARM Holdings plc, Apple Inc. And Persimmon plc Drive Our Growth Forwards?

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The Beginners’ Portfolio is a virtual portfolio, run as if based on real money with all costs, spreads and dividends accounted for. Transactions made for the portfolio are for educational purposes only and do not constitute advice to buy or sell.

The past few weeks of market turmoil have knocked the Beginners’ Portfolio back a bit, and we’re now only up 24.6% since inception in May 2012 (including all costs and spreads), compared with 34.3% at the end of 2015. But ironically it’s the “safer” shares that have been hurt the most, with the higher-risk growth constituents holding up well.

High-tech wonders

ARM Holdings (LSE: ARM) has actually disappointed a little since it was added in December 2014. After a promising first few months and a nice price rise, it’s been up and down ever since, and with the price today at 939p we’re looking at no overall movement at all once costs, spreads and dividends are included — the share price itself is up 2.8%.

But there’s nothing at all wrong with ARM’s fundamental performance, after adjusted EPS for 2015 came in 25% ahead of the previous year (with reported EPS actually up 33%). That came from a 19% increase in revenue in sterling terms, after 4bn ARM-based chips were shipped in the final quarter with microcontrollers and mobile device chips growing strongly.

Analysts are predicting a 43% rise in EPS this year, which would take the P/E down to 27 — that’s about double the FTSE average, but it’s the lowest ARM shares have been on for years.

Our investment in Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has done better, with a 50% total gain since January 2013, up to $96, thanks in part to the firm’s move to paying dividends. The price has flattened a bit of late, because of the possibility that sales might actually fall back a little this year.

But that’s a very short-term view, and to put it into perspective the company has just posted its biggest quarterly profit ever at $18.4bn after selling 74m iPhones. A vast proportion of the world’s population don’t have smartphones, and as wealth increases they’ll be buying them — and phone junkies will keep upgrading. Looking at that longer-term picture, on a P/E of only around 10.4, Apple shares still look cheap to me.

Plain old bricks

And finally to the portfolio’s biggest winner so far, Persimmon (LSE: PSN), which I added in July 2012 when the whole housebuilding sector looked insanely undervalued. Persimmon was in a strong financial position and was snapping up building land while it was going cheap, and that’s helped it post four years of EPS rises averaging around 50% per year.

The share price has soared to 2,060p today, and after adding in the firm’s special dividends (and deducting all costs), we’re on a 243% total gain. Is it time to take some profit? I don’t think so.

There’s an EPS rise of 28% expected for the year just ended, with results due on 23 February — and a January update told us of a 13% rise in revenue, with 8% more homes completed at a 4.5% higher average selling price. With the shares on a prospective P/E of 13, dropping to under 12 on 2016 forecasts, and dividends set to yield around 5%, Persimmon looks like it’s turning from a growth share into a strong income share.

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Alan Oscroft has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended Apple. The Motley Fool UK has recommended ARM Holdings. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.