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Can SkyePharma PLC (+78%), Cairn Energy PLC (+63%) And Vedanta Resources plc (+56%) Keep On Climbing?

Pharmaceuticals, oil and gas exploration, and mining — quite a heady combination these days, but all three shares have been rising strongly of late and could have much further to go.

Look at SkyePharma (LSE: SKP). Its shares have climbed by 78% from their 52-week low in August 2015, to 457p — and if that’s not enough for you, over the past five years they’ve soared by a massive 990%! But, can it keep going?

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I’d say there’s a very good possibility that it can. SkyePharma, once a lossmaking blue-sky possibility, has crossed the line into profitability and earnings per share (EPS) have been swelling nicely. In fact, though there’s a fall in EPS forecast for this year, the subsequent growth pencilled-in for 2017 would put the shares on a P/E of a little over 15 — and I reckon that’s very attractive for a growth candidate.

What’s more, SkyePharma’s speciality is in developing drug delivery technology rather than the drugs themselves — things like oral, topical, inhalable and injectable delivery systems. And to me that makes the firm look like a lower risk “picks and shovels” candidate, whose products are used by big-name drug developers including GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Roche and others.

Oil strength

The rising price of oil, which is oscillating around the $40 level, has helped boost Cairn Energy (LSE: CNE) shares by 63% to 208p since their low of 20 January. Full-year results released on 15 March contributed too. Chief executive Simon Thomson said of the firm’s offshore Senegal prospects that the results have confirmed “the scale and extent of the significant resource base in this world class asset“.

A risk with Cairn Energy is that it’s still at the cash-burn stage and there are no profits within the forecast horizon yet. But at 31 December there was a tidy $603m net cash on the books, and the company still has undrawn lending facilities and letters of credit that should add around another $500m to its available cash. Cairn, then, isn’t going to be hit by the kind of debt squeeze in the near future that some of its rivals will face.

With some impressive assets under development and a positive brokers’ stance, Cairn looks promising to me.

Mining resurgence

India-focused Vedanta Resources (LSE: VED) has seen its shares drop 41% over the past 12 months as the commodities slump has continued to bite, but since a low on 18 January there has been a 56% climb to 320.5p. With the firm’s main products being copper, zinc, aluminium, lead, iron ore and petroleum, the recent recoveries in minerals and oil prices have both given the shares a leg up.

Vedanta, like the rest of the sector, isn’t out of the woods yet. With earnings having plummeted over the past few years, the company has three years of losses forecast — and its dividend, set to yield 4.5% for the year to March 2016, is surely not going to be maintained.

But the losses should be relatively small, and the long-term future is surely solid, even if analysts currently have Vedanta as a sell.

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