What businesses go together better than private banking, tea plantations, engineering and importing frozen seafood? Evidently, someone at Camellia (LSE: CAM) asked himself or herself that question, answered with an emphatic ‘none’ and duly set about investing in every asset class under the sun.
To be fair to Camellia, full-year results announced today did show the very diversified group moving from a £3.1m loss last year to a £4.9m pre-tax profit over the past 12 months.
However, the chairman summed up my hesitancy about Camellia’s future when he warned today that “the outlook for the group continues to be mixed.” Mixed is exactly the word I’d choose when the company has to fret about drought in South Africa affecting its agriculture business, lower UK interest rates affecting banking operations and the Brexit vote lowering demand for engineering services.
There are many good reasons conglomerates have gone out of favour with investors and despite turning a profit this year, I’ll be steering clear of Camellia and its varied interests.
Housebuilder to watch?
Given the spectacular collapse of the Irish housing market during the Financial Crisis investors would be forgiven for not wanting to touch the sector with a 10-foot barge pole. The latest results from Irish homebuilder Cairn (LSE: CRN) suggest it may be time to take a closer look, though.
Interim results for Cairn showed the company making good progress in transitioning from acquiring development sites to the second phase of actually building homes. After last year’s IPO and a recent rights issue the company has access to €167m of cash and debt to see it through the construction process.
Most importantly, the housing market in Ireland isn’t what it was before the Crisis. Instead of building vast suburbs far away from population centres to take advantage of tax breaks, as was done in the boom years, Cairn is focusing 90% of its projects on Dublin, where there’s a severe shortage of quality housing. It’s still early days for Cairn, with only 112 homes sold so far, but I’ll be watching closely in the coming quarters to gauge how completions are progressing and whether margin targets can be maintained.
Wait and see
It was all good news today for Scottish TV channel STV (LSE: STV) with interim results showing revenue up 5%, operating profits up 28% and net debt down a full 17% year-on-year. That said, a fair bit of this success can be placed at the feet of improved productions from ITV, where STV sources the content it doesn’t produce itself.
With the future of terrestrial TV looking increasingly bleak, STV is attempting to increase the percentage of revenue coming from in-house productions and digital sales. Over the past six months these businesses did increase revenue by 100% and 50% respectively but together still only account for 12% of group revenue.
These divisions will be critical in order to secure success in a future where ad revenues are likely to decrease and owning quality content will be king. With shares trading at a relatively tame 8.5 times forward earnings and a 2.8% yield on offer, I’ll keep watching STV to see how these two business lines progress but wouldn’t take the plunge just yet.
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Ian Pierce 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.