Today’s results from Merlin (LSE: MERL) show that it’s making encouraging progress despite it experiencing a tough 2015 financial year. The owner of Alton Towers recorded a rise in revenue of 3.9%, while its pre-tax profit edged higher to £250m from £249m in the 2014 financial year.
Although this financial performance may seem to be rather disappointing at first glance, Merlin has been able to overcome highly challenging trading conditions and appears to be well-positioned to deliver improved performance in the coming years. The tragic accident at Alton Towers in June 2015 hurt visitor numbers significantly, but Merlin was still able to record a rise in visitor numbers of 0.3%.
This highlights the strength of its brand portfolio, with Legoland in particular offering impressive growth during the year. And with Merlin forecast to grow its bottom line by 17% this year and by a further 16% next year, it appears to be well-placed to deliver capital gains. This should be aided by a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of just 1.2, which indicates that Merlin is a great value play for the long term.
Also reporting today was construction company Galliford Try (LSE: GFRD), with its half-year results showing that the house building sector in the UK remains buoyant. For example, Galliford Try posted a rise in revenue of 12%, while pre-tax profit increased by 24% versus the same period last year. This has enabled the company to increase dividends by 18%, with strong performance from its Linden Homes and Construction divisions providing an upbeat outlook for the business.
With Galliford Try forecast to increase its bottom line by 9% in the current year and by a further 18% next year, it appears to be a relatively strong growth play. And with its shares trading on a PEG ratio of only 0.5, they offer exceptional value for money, too. Although there’s a change in management, with Galliford Try’s Chief Operating Officer due to retire in a year’s time, its risk/reward ratio remains highly enticing.
Challenges and opportunities
Meanwhile, shares in Santander (LSE: BNC) also appear to offer excellent value for money. That’s because they trade on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of just 7.9, which indicates that there’s major upward rerating potential on the cards.
Of course, Santander is enduring a highly challenging period at the moment. The Brazilian economy continues to be a drag on its performance and its profitability is set to suffer, with growth forecasts having been gradually downgraded in recent months so that Santander is now expected to increase its earnings by just 1% this year and by 9% next year. However, those figures could easily fall in the coming months if the economic outlook for Brazil (and the global economy) deteriorates.
With Santander having a relatively sound balance sheet and a diversified business model, it’s very likely to ride out its present problems. As such, its risk/reward ratio holds great appeal and it could prove to be a stunning long-term value play.
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Peter Stephens owns shares of Galliford Try. 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.