These battered big-caps could be smart buys after today’s results

Recruitment firm PageGroup (LSE: PAGE) surprised investors this morning with a £20m special dividend and a 16% increase in pre-tax profit, which rose to £46.9m during the first half of the year.

However, closer inspection suggests to me that the group’s trading was more mixed than these headline figures suggest.

PageGroup, which was until recently known as Michael Page International, said that referendum uncertainty had slowed recruitment activity at the upper end of the UK market, reducing gross profit by 1.3%. Performance was also weak in Asia Pacific and The Americas.

Only PageGroup’s EMEA business — which accounted for 43% of gross profit — delivered meaningful growth. EMEA gross profit rose by 18.3% to £129.1m during the first half of the year, lifting the group’s overall results.

Is PageGroup a buy?

PageGroup’s financials remains strong, helped by exchange rates that provided a £2m boost to operating profit. The firm’s operating margin was 8.1% during the first half, up from 7.5% during the first half of last year. Adjusted earnings rose by 20% to 10.8p per share.

Free cash flow was nearly 20% higher at £15.6m, compared to £13.1m last year. Net cash was £74m at the end of June, some of which will be used to fund a special dividend of 6.46p per share. This will be paid alongside the interim dividend of 3.75p per share, up 4.2% from last year.

Today’s figures suggest to me that consensus forecasts will remain unchanged. This leaves PageGroup on a 2016 forecast P/E of 16, with a prospective yield of 3.5%. The special dividend will top this up to 5.4%, but I’m not sure that’s enough of a reason to buy given that earnings are expected to be flat next year.

I’d hold at this valuation.

Holiday profits rise

Terrorist attacks have caused disruption in some popular holiday destinations, but package group TUI AG (LSE: TUI) said third-quarter earnings rose by 14% to €203.3m after adjustment for currencies and the timing of Easter.

The group’s large scale and flexible structure means it has been able to shift marketing spend and capacity out of underperforming markets and into more popular areas. TUI said UK spending remained strong, with “no apparent slowdown in bookings” as a result of the EU referendum.

Current trading appears to be healthy. So far, 87% of TUI’s summer 2016 programme has been sold. The group says this is “broadly in line” with last year’s performance, thanks to TUI’s ability to shift capacity between markets.

I’ve thought for some time that TUI shares have looked good value. Analysts over-reacted to the referendum slump, slashing earnings forecasts for the current year. However, they were soon forced to reverse these cuts. The latest forecasts are less than 5% lower than at April’s peak.

I’m encouraged by today’s Q3 results. Even after this morning’s gains, TUI trades on a 2016 forecast P/E of 12.2 and offers a prospective yield of 5.1%.

I believe the shares could be a decent buy at this level, with the potential for further gains.

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Roland Head 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.