Paper and packaging firm Mondi (LSE: MNDI) has seen its share price slip around 11% or so since the beginning of October and the trading update earlier this month suggests why.
The directors told us that they are confident of making progress for the year and expect a strong final quarter, “supported by generally higher average selling prices and good growth.” So far, so good, but they go on to say that cost pressures and negative currency effects look set to cause an underlying performance for the year “modestly below market expectations.”
Strong operational progress and growth
I don’t think that’s much to worry about because Mondi has a cracking record of operational progress, and it seems likely that the firm will be able to adjust its selling prices to accommodate rising costs. Meanwhile, currency changes tend to be fleeting, reverting back at some point, or at least halting their movement in any particular direction. Indeed, the directors don’t seem concerned either, suggesting that Mondi’s robust business model and its strong pipeline of projects will see the company through and they “remain confident of continuing to grow and deliver industry-leading returns.”
To me, weakness in the share price now provides us with an opportunity to pick up some of the company’s shares at better-value prices than before. Such a tactic could be worth pursuing because, despite the cost pressures, the firm delivered underlying operating profit for the third quarter 8% higher than a year ago. It benefitted from higher average selling prices, suggesting that the company has room to raise selling prices to maintain margins in the long run.
Like-for-like sales volumes in the third quarter of the year came in higher than a year ago. Mondi is still trading and growing well due to good performances from the firm’s offering in containerboard and fibre packaging. On top of that, selling prices for key paper grades were higher than last year and the directors say “the upward momentum in pricing witnessed over the first half continued,” which is encouraging.
Mondi looks like a company with a business in good health and I think the stock is well worth your research time now.
Improving economic backdrop and rising dividend
The other FTSE 100 firm I think has a bright future is 3i Group (LSE: III), which invests in smaller businesses and in infrastructure. Back in June, chief executive Simon Borrows told us that the firm’s portfolio of international investments was “performing well against an improving economic backdrop.” I think his comments are interesting and help put to bed any lingering notion that world economies are deteriorating. Indeed, the rising price of copper and other indicators have been telling us for some time that the economic future looks bright.
I think the recent strong operational and share price performance of firms such as 3i Group adds weight to the views of well-known fund manager Neil Woodford who is bullish on UK-facing cyclical firms, for example. 3i’s net asset value (NAV) runs around 628p, which throws up a price-to-book value of 1.5, around the current level of the share price. That’s a fair-looking valuation, but I think the company’s long record of progress reflected in a rising dividend is attractive. I’m confident 3i can deliver further NAV gains from here.
Kevin Godbold has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.