The Motley Fool

Are BHP Billiton plc, Rio Tinto plc And John Wood Group PLC Set To Soar?

Shares in Wood Group (LSE: WG) were given a boost today, with the resources support services company announcing the acquisition of Ingenious Inc. It’s a US-based proprietary software and consulting services business that Wood Group states will build on and diversify its capabilities within the automation and control space. Wood Group will also be able to leverage the strength Ingenious has in the operator training simulator market to enhance its control system simulators, training tools and services.

With shares in Wood Group rising by 2%, the market seems to be upbeat regarding today’s news. And while the wider oil and gas sector has performed relatively poorly in recent months, shares in Wood Group have risen by 9% in the last three months. Despite this, they still trade on an appealing valuation, with Wood Group having a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of just 13.4. This indicates that its shares could be due for an upward rerating and with earnings growth of 5% forecast for next year, they could continue their run of the last few months over the medium term.

Priced to buy?

Also rising strongly in the last three months have been shares in iron ore-focused miner Rio Tinto (LSE: RIO). It has soared by 12% during the period as the outlook for the iron ore price has improved slightly. And with the company expected to return to earnings growth next year, now could be a good time to buy a slice of it.

In fact, Rio Tinto is expected to record a rise in net profit of 39% in 2017 and this puts its shares on a price-to-earnings-growth (PEG) ratio of just 0.5. This indicates that further capital gains could lie ahead, with the company’s recent strategy shift towards a more affordable dividend apparently having been embraced by the market. And with Rio Tinto due to have a new CEO following Sam Walsh’s decision to retire, a refreshed strategy could boost the company’s financial performance yet further.

Profits boost

Meanwhile, shares in BHP Billiton (LSE: BLT) have also risen in the last three months, with them being up by 13%. This is at least partly due to an improved outlook for commodity prices, but is also because BHP Billiton’s current strategy appears to be having a positive effect on its financial performance. Initiatives such as splitting-off core and non-core operations to generate efficiencies, as well as cost-cutting, are set to aid the company in posting a rise in its pre-tax profit from £1.1bn in the current year to £3.2bn next year.

The impact of such a rapid rise in earnings could be very positive on the company’s share price. While it may not allow BHP Billiton to escape dividend cuts, it should mean that the company’s financial health improves and this could lead to a brighter outlook for shareholder payouts in the long run. As such, now seems to be an opportune moment to buy a slice of the business.

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