The Motley Fool

Would Unilever plc, Coca Cola HBC AG and Berkeley Group Holdings plc be hit hard by Brexit?

Today’s trading update from Coke bottler Coca-Cola HBC (LSE: CCH) was titled “a good start to the year,” but it wasn’t enough to stop the shares falling when markets opened.

Indeed, these first-quarter results seemed pretty ordinary to me. Volumes were unchanged on last year, while sales revenue fell by 2.7%. Coca-Cola HBC was hit by exchange rate effects and a big recession in Russia last year. The situation seems to have stabilised this year, but hasn’t really improved.

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Despite this, I don’t think a Brexit would cause any new problems. Although it’s listed in London, the majority of Coca-Cola HBC’s business is done in the eurozone and in other European countries with strong trade links to the EU. It also reports in Euros, so isn’t too exposed to the value of the pound.

In my view, the firm’s share price is a bigger concern. Despite forecast earnings per share growth of only 3% this year, it currently trades on 19 times 2016 forecast earnings. I think there’s better value elsewhere.

Brexit won’t matter

Unilever (LSE: ULVR) reported revenue of €53bn in 2015. That’s more than the GDP of European countries such as Luxembourg and Croatia.

Large global businesses like Unilever — which operates in more than 190 countries — use very sophisticated financial engineering to optimise their operations. I think it’s very unlikely that a Brexit would cause any problems for it.

For existing shareholders, I think Unilever remains a high quality hold. I certainly have no intention of selling my own shares. However, for anyone wanting to buy today, I think it’s worth asking whether now is the right time.

Unilever’s shares have recently pulled back from an all-time high of 3,334p to around 3,130p. But this still leaves the stock on a 2016 forecast P/E of 21.4. This looks quite expensive to me, given that earnings per share are only expected to rise by 2% in 2016 and by 7% in 2017.

Although currency effects are currently working against Unilever, I think it might be worth waiting to see if the shares fall any further over the next few months.

Would investment in housing suffer?

Berkeley Group Holdings (LSE: BKG) has been a big faller this year. Shares in the upmarket housebuilder have fallen by 21% since the start of 2016.

One reason for this is that a sizeable part of Berkeley’s profits comes from selling premium new property in London to overseas investors. Asia is an important market for Berkeley, which has raised fears that sales could slow if the Chinese slowdown continues.

A second concern affecting the London market is that overseas buyers looking for safe investments may be less keen on parking their cash here if the UK leaves the EU.

Berkeley said recently that reservations were 4% lower between November and February than during the same period last year. However, the firm said it has more than £3bn of committed sales, up slightly from £2,959m in June 2015.

Profits are expected to be flat this year, but analysts are bullish on 2017, forecasting a 50% rise in earnings per share. Berkeley’s 6.8% forecast yield is also very attractive, so if your view aligns with the latest forecasts, now might be a good time to buy.

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Roland Head owns shares of Unilever. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended Unilever. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Berkeley Group 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.