Market appetite for SThree (LSE: STHR) has sunk in end-of-week business after a frosty reception for the firm’s first-quarter financials. The stock was last 3% lower from Thursday’s close.
SThree advised that gross profit fell 12% during December-February, to £65.1m, as conditions in its UK marketplace deteriorated. Profits here dived 19% year-on-year to £13m due to regulatory changes and the broader impact of last June’s Brexit referendum.
However, the robust performance of SThree overseas gave reason for optimism. In the US the recruiter saw gross profits up 12% to £14.2m. And in continental Europe — a region responsible more than half of profits — SThree recorded growth of 7%, to £34m.
Chief executive Gary Elden commented that “political and macroeconomic uncertainty remains at heightened levels in a number of our key regions.” But he added that that “our focus on Contract, the continued strength of our performance in… Europe, our greater momentum in the USA and firm control of our cost base, leave us well positioned for the future.”
SThree generates 70% of gross profits from the flexible Contract segment, and this should allow the company to cushion the worst of any economic trouble in its key markets looking ahead, in my opinion. Gross profits here rose 7% during December-February.
The City expects earnings to expand 2% at SThree in the year to November 2017, a result that should allow the firm to keep dividends locked at 14p per share. And this figure yields a handsome 4.5%, beating a forward average of 3.5% for Britain’s blue-chips.
With further earnings growth slated for fiscal 2018 — a rise of 14% is currently predicted — SThree is expected to get dividends moving skywards again with a 14.1p reward, resulting in a giant 4.6% yield.
Now, while City brokers expect ITV’s (LSE: ITV) long-running growth story to skid to a halt this year, the broadcaster is still expected to remain a lucrative pick for income chasers.
A 5% earnings dip is forecast for 2017 as pressures in the ad market smack revenues. Net advertising revenues fell 3% in 2016, and ITV expects these to fall a further 6% during the first four months of 2017.
However, these problems are not predicted to put paid to ITV’s progressive dividend policy as sales continue to surge at the company’s ITV Studios arm, as well as across its Online, Pay and Interactive channels. And the broadcaster can also rely on its excellent cash generation to keep driving dividends onwards — free cash flow of £636m last year was up 13% from 2015.
Consequently an 8p per share dividend — yielding a meaty 3.9% and upgraded from 7.2p in 2016 — is chalked in for the current year.
And a return to earnings growth in 2018 will push the dividend still higher, according to the abacus bashers. Indeed, a 5% bottom-line uptick is anticipated to drive the payment to 9.3p, a figure that yields a delicious 4.5%.
Royston Wild has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended ITV. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.