How BTG plc could outperform Vodafone Group plc

In yesterday’s full-year results statement, Vodafone Group  (LSE: VOD) revealed that it has completed its infrastructure investment programme Project Spring.

The firm’s chief executive Vittorio Colao says Project Spring has transformed the quality of Vodafone’s technology, enhancing the customer’s experience and clearing the way for the firm to expand its enterprise services.

A return to growth

The year to 31 March 2016 was significant for the company. For the first time since 2008, Vodafone managed to grow its revenue organically and its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), both key metrics for measuring success. Investors would also have been pleased as the firm also posted the first quarter of positive revenue growth in Europe since December 2010. 

Hopes for further forward growth are high. The firm has 46.8m 4G customers and its 4G coverage in Europe now scores as high as 87%. Meanwhile, 3G is still important. It has 72.5m 3G data users in emerging markets who could help to drive the growth in earnings. There’s also potential to expand income in broadband services. Vodafone serves 13.4m broadband customers in Europe present but the service is available to 30m homes across the continent so there’s growth potential.

City analysts following the firm certainly see its potential. They expect Vodafone to grow its earning by 18% during the year to March 2017 and by 29% the year after that. But those investing in Vodafone now pay a high price for such expectations. At today’s 229p share price, the firm trades on a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of almost 30 for the year to March 2018. If things don’t work out as expected, the shares could fall a long way as the market adjusts its assumptions about Vodafone.

Better value

There’s better value to be found in the growing specialist healthcare mid-cap company BTG (LSE: BTG). City analysts predict earnings to grow by 2% during the year to March 2017 and 25% the year after. However, at a share price of 608p, the forward P/E ratio for year to March 2018 runs at just under 22, which is lower than the value placed on Vodafone’s forward earnings.

BTG released its full-year results yesterday too. The firm is making good progress with several products and chief executive Louise Makin said the company is investing in geographic expansion and product innovation to expand both organically and by acquisition.

There really is a lot to like with BTG. The firm operates in a defensive sector, it has a good record of successful execution and it sports a strong balance sheet with surplus cash and zero borrowings. The cash-generative nature of BTG’s business provides plenty of ammunition to drive forward growth either by acquisition or by investing money in research and development to power the firm’s organic progress.

Paying too much for growth can lead to a poor investment outcome, so I favour BTG over Vodafone. But I also like the company featured in a new Motley Fool report about a mid-cap enjoying strong growth that looks set to continue.

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Kevin Godbold owns shares in BTG. The Motley Fool UK has recommended BTG. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.