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Why Berkeley Group Holdings plc, Go-Ahead Group plc & Next plc could be top contrarian choices

Stock markets are starting to bounce back after the big selloff that followed the referendum result. Despite this, many quality shares are significantly cheaper than they were five days ago.

Is this a fair reflection of the new outlook for the UK economy, or has the market created contrarian buying opportunities for bold investors?

The big housing question

Shares in upmarket housebuilder Berkeley Group Holdings (LSE: BKG) have fallen by 20% since last Thursday. Investors are understandably concerned that Berkeley’s heavy exposure to the expensive end of the London market could cause sales to slide. Berkeley recently reported a 20% fall in new reservations in the run-up to the referendum.

However, the firm already has £3.25bn of forward sales on its books, and deliberately held back new launches ahead of the referendum. The true picture may not be quite so bad. Berkeley’s chairman Tony Pidgley appears to agree. On Monday, Mr Pidgley purchased £795,000 worth of Berkeley shares, topping up his holding in the group to 4.7%.

This isn’t a huge amount of money for Mr Pidgley, who is one of the FTSE 100’s best-paid executives. However, it does suggest to me that Berkeley’s founder doesn’t expect the housing market to collapse just yet.

Berkeley shares now trade on a 2016 forecast P/E of 6 and offer a forecast yield of 8.4%. Now might be a good time for existing shareholders to average down.

Commuters hate this firm, but should you?

Luckily, I don’t have to use the Southern Rail service into London each day. Commuters who do will not have been surprised when the company which operates the franchise, Go-Ahead Group (LSE: GOG), said that profits will be lower than expected over the life of the contract.

Go-Ahead shares were already falling ahead of the referendum. They’re now worth 28% less than they were one month ago. However, I think it’s worth remembering that rail operations only represent about 40% of Go-Ahead’s profits. The remainder comes from the bus division, which is expected to report record earnings this year.

Go-Ahead shares now trade on less than ten times forecast earnings and offer a 5.4% yield. In my view, this stock could be worth a closer look.

A very cautious outlook

High street fashion retailer Next (LSE: NXT) has a well-deserved reputation for excellent management and transparent reporting. So the group’s guidance that it expects pre-tax profit to be between £748m and £852m this year should be taken seriously. My reading of this is that a slight fall from last year’s figure of £821m is likely. But a major collapse is unlikely.

Next plans to continue buying back its own shares with surplus cash. The 33% fall in the group’s share price so far in 2016 means that these buybacks will be more effective than they would have been at higher prices.

I suspect Next’s long run of growth is probably coming to an end. But the group could still be a profitable investment. The shares currently trade on about 10 times forecast earnings, assuming profits remain broadly unchanged this year. Coupled with a forecast yield of 4.5%, this looks cheap enough to reflect the uncertain outlook. I think Next could be a smart contrarian buy.

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Roland Head has no position in any shares mentioned. 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.