Are Associated British Foods plc, Vodafone Group plc And Sports Direct International Plc On Track To Beat The FTSE 100?

Shares in ABF (LSE: ABF) were given a boost today with the diversified food and retail company stating in its pre-close trading update that it’s on track to deliver on its full-year guidance. As has been the case in recent years, ABF’s clothing company Primark has been the standout performer, with it recording a rise in sales of 7.5% currency-neutral, due in part to increased retail selling space.

Meanwhile, ABF’s sugar division performed steadily despite relatively low sugar prices. With Chinese and EU stock levels declining, sugar prices in those markets offered some support during the period. And despite mixed results in its agriculture, grocery and ingredients businesses, ABF appears to be moving in the right direction – especially with net debt falling to just £0.4bn.

With shares in ABF being down 1% since the turn of the year, they’re 2% ahead of the FTSE 100’s performance during the same time period. However, further outperformance could be limited since ABF trades on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 33 and this appears to represent poor value for money. And with a dividend yield of 1.1%, the stock lacks income appeal too. As such, other options may be preferable for investors seeking to beat the wider index.

Turnaround potential

One such company is Sports Direct (LSE: SPD). Its share price has thoroughly disappointed in recent months after it released a profit warning. In fact, Sports Direct has underperformed the FTSE 100 by 26% year-to-date, which is clearly hugely disappointing. In the short term, there could be more challenges as the company seeks to turn around its worse-than-expected performance.

In the long run though, there’s potential for capital gains. That’s at least partly because Sports Direct trades on a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of just 1, which indicates that its shares are appealing at their current price level. Certainly, Sports Direct’s foray into international retailing has been rather disappointing thus far, but its business model remains sound and it has obvious turnaround potential to enable it to beat the wider index.

Profiting from Europe

Also offering the potential for FTSE 100-beating performance is Vodafone (LSE: VOD). It’s rapidly expanding and diversifying into new product areas, with the launch of broadband in the UK and its recent acquisitions in Europe providing improved long-term growth potential. And while there’s a considerable amount of uncertainty present regarding the EU and the potential for a Brexit, the region offers a brighter future now than it has done in recent years. That’s largely because of the prospect of more quantitative easing that has the scope to improve GDP growth over the medium term.

With Vodafone being focused on Europe, this could make a major difference to its share price performance. It also looks set to benefit from being a relatively sound, resilient and defensive stock that could hold major appeal should the FTSE 100 continue to offer a high degree of volatility this year. Plus, Vodafone’s yield of 5.3% remains one of the most appealing on the FTSE 100, which should appeal to income investors and help Vodafone’s shares to beat the wider index.

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