Yesterday’s half-year results from FTSE 100 insurers Standard Life and Legal & General drew contrasting responses from the market, with the former rising 6.6% and the latter falling 5.5%.
Today, the sector’s biggest player Prudential (LSE: PRU) stepped up to the plate, and the shares jumped 3% higher following its 09:00 results release. The group beat analyst expectations with a 9% rise in operating profit. Asia was particularly strong at 15%.
Prudential continues to benefit from its focus on serving the needs of an increasingly wealthy younger population in its Asian markets and the growing number of retirees in its US and UK markets. Management acknowledges the uncertainty created by the EU referendum result but says “diversification by geography, currency, product and distribution should reduce the impact on the Group.”
After the indiscriminate sell-off of financial stocks in the wake of the Brexit vote, Prudential’s shares have climbed back above their pre-referendum level, as the market has refocused on the company’s sound fundamentals and attractive geographical exposure.
Management said today that it remains on track to achieve its financial objectives for 2017. Trading on just 11 times that year’s forecast earnings, I reckon Prudential is very buyable at a current share price of around 1,420p.
Upgrades to come
Gold miner Centamin (LSE: CEY) released strong half-time results this morning and upgraded its guidance for the full year. The FTSE 250 firm said gold production in Q2 was 12% higher than in Q1. This increased production, together with higher realised gold prices ($1,268 an ounce compared with $1,196) and improving operational efficiencies, drove EBITDA up by 51%.
Looking ahead to the full year, the company raised its production guidance to between 520,000 and 540,000 ounces from the previous 470,000 ounces. Meanwhile, cash cost of production guidance has come down to $530-$550 an ounce from $680 and all-in sustaining costs to $720-$750 from $900.
Centamin is cash-rich with no debt and aims to generate substantial free cash flow to self-fund the business even when the gold price isn’t particularly favourable. Although the shares are trading at record highs today (currently 175p) and Centamin’s producing assets have single-country risk (Egypt), this is a well-run company and remains an attractively-valued prospect with analysts set to upgrade their earnings forecasts.
Shares of Vodka maker Stock Spirits Group (LSE: STCK) have also risen today on the back of its half-year results announcement. The FTSE SmallCap firm, which is a leading player in central and eastern Europe, went through a bit of boardroom turmoil earlier this year following a poor 2015 performance from its Polish business that generates over half of group revenues.
However, the company reported distinct signs of recovery in the business during the first half of this year, and with higher margins and increased EBITDA across all its territories, the overall group performance bodes well for the future.
Stock Spirits also announced today the promotion of a non-executive director to the role of chief executive. The boardroom now looks more settled, management sees no significant issues from Brexit and the prospects for the business are brightening again.
At a current share price of 162p, Stock Spirits trades on less than 13 times its pre-Poland-stumble earnings, which makes this defensive stock an attractive buy to my mind.
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G A Chester has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.