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3 Half-term heroes: Why Sky plc, Just Eat plc and Merlin Entertainments plc could all benefit from the break

Children across the land will have been rejoicing as the bell sounded on Friday afternoon to signal another half-term had arrived. With this in mind, let’s look at three companies that should be familiar to most families and may benefit from the short holiday this week.

Reach for the remote

The rather unpredictable weather we’ve all experienced over the last few weeks could benefit companies like Sky (LSE:SKY) if it continues. Should days out be cancelled, parents will look for other, indoor ways to entertain their children. One easy solution would be to sit them in front of the box and make the most of a subscription offered by Sky. Europe’s leading entertainment company has an enviable portfolio of pay-TV channels covering sports, entertainment, movies and news. While parents just looking for a ‘quick fix’ always have the option of subscribing to cheaper, low commitment, services like Now TV, as well as a number of other services, Sky remains the first resort for many.

Sky currently trades on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of just under 16. The expected dividend of 3.6% for 2016 is covered 1.8 times. After reaching 1,140p last June, the share price has now fallen 15% to 970p, suggesting that investors are temporarily less enamoured with company. An opportunity to build a position perhaps?

Just growth?

What’s the perfect accompaniment to a movie from Sky? A takeaway via Just Eat (LSE:JE) perhaps. Regular watchers of this company will know that it’s experienced serious earnings growth over the past few years. Families ordering half-term takeaway treats will only boost profits further.

The share price sits at 448p, although it did fall to 329p back in February. Trouble is, the recovery means that shares now boast a P/E ratio of over 35. Given that a figure of 15 would indicate value for money for most shares, Just Eat’s offering does seem rather dear, even when its superb growth prospects are factored-in. The lack of dividends is also disappointing. Cautious investors wishing to place an order for this company’s shares may consider waiting for a dip. After all, companies with high expectations can often disappoint.  

Roller coaster ride

Perhaps this article is too pessimistic. Should the British weather do something unexpected and give us a burst of sunshine, many families will likely flock to the attractions owned by the world’s second-largest visitor attraction operator Merlin Entertainments (LSE:MERL). Indeed, the company’s new Galactica ride at Alton Towers could be a major draw, despite the horrific crash that occurred at the same site in June last year. A month before that event, the £4.3bn cap’s shares were trading at a peak of 470p. Despite the inevitable dip over the last year, the price has recovered to 424p today. This leaves Merlin, which has more than 60m customers worldwide, on a forecast P/E ratio of just over 19. Its last trading update, released mid-May, stated that performance was “broadly in line with expectations” and that new rides opened this season had been “well received” based on visitor feedback.

Merlin certainly has a lot going for it: 11 brands and over 100 attractions in 23 countries, plus a few hotels and holiday villages thrown in for good measure. True, its shares have been cheaper, but their current price seems reasonable given the company’s plans for expansion in North America and Asia.

Invest for the future

Of course, a short holiday won't be enough to severely dent or greatly improve a company’s prospects. That said, if you use any of the products or services offered by the firms above, it may be worth taking a closer look at their shares. As the legendary investor, Peter Lynch once said, "invest in what you know," so long as you do some serious stock research first. In other words, consider purchasing shares in companies whose products or services you fully understand and often purchase. After all, if you've been impressed by a business, it's likely that others will be too. 

Planning for the half-term break isn't easy. Nor is building a pot of wealth for yourself or perhaps for your children to inherit. However, the experts at the Motley Fool are here to help. They've produced a special report entitled 10 steps to make a million in the market. One of these steps focuses on the the benefits of investing for your offspring.  

Click here for your free copy.

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