Why earnings are expected to explode at AstraZeneca plc, Whitbread plc and Photo-Me International plc!

Today I’m running the rule over three Footsie growth stars.

Not lying down

Beverages-and-beds play Whitbread (LSE: WTB) was recently dealing 3% higher on Tuesday following the release of decent trading numbers.

Whitbread announced that total sales leapt 8% during the 13 weeks to 2 June, while like-for-like sales climbed 1.8%. The fruits of ongoing expansion continue to offer rich rewards with revenues at Costa and Premier Inn leaping 11.5% and 8%, respectively, during the period.

And that expansion should continue to power top-line growth, in my opinion as Whitbread remains on course to open 230 to 250 Costa outlets worldwide in the current fiscal year alone, as well as thousands more Costa-branded vending machines.

The number crunchers expect these measures to deliver earnings growth of 3% and 10% in the years to February 2017 and 2018, resulting in P/E multiples of 15.9 times and 14.5 times. I reckon Whitbread is a steal at these prices.  

Picture perfect

Photo booth play Photo-Me International (LSE: PHTM) hasn’t enjoyed such a smooth ride in Tuesday trade however, the business sinking 18% after releasing trading numbers of its own.

Yet Photo-Me advised that group revenues rose 3.8% during the 12 months to April 2016, to £184m, a result that propelled underlying pre-tax profit 14.6% higher to £40.1m.

And Photo-Me remains bullish about the future, advising that “whilst uncertainties remain, in particular in relation to currency, the board anticipates another year of good growth.”

I view share price weakness today as nothing more than profit-booking following recent advances, and expect Photo-Me’s bottom line to continue rising.

The City shares my view, and earnings are expected to jump 10% and 8% in 2017 and 2018, respectively. And I reckon subsequent P/E ratings of 18 times and 16.6 times are great value given Photo-Me’s terrific momentum.

Make it better

Medicines play AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN) has proven to be a growth disaster for what now seems an age.

The company has seen earnings steadily crumble since 2011 as patent expirations on key products like Crestor and Nexium have weighed. And further dips of 7% and 1% are pencilled-in for 2016 and 2017, respectively.

There’s no doubt that AstraZeneca was late in addressing the impact of such sales losses — indeed, GlaxoSmithKline is expected to get back to growth this year despite battling similar problems.

But since the installation of chief executive Pascal Soriot in 2012, AstraZeneca’s R&D operations have received a massive shot in the arm, and the Cambridge company now boasts a promising pipeline covering a multitude of fast-growing therapy areas.

So while AstraZeneca is set to toil for a little longer, I reckon the firm will prove a white-hot pick for those seeking electric long-term earnings growth, particularly as emerging market investment continues to leap.

And I reckon a prospective P/E rating of 13.7 times represents a great level to buy into the pharma giant’s compelling growth story.

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