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The Sage Group plc: a FTSE 100 growth stock I could retire on

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Sage Group (LSE: SGE) might be expensive but it’s a stock I have long championed thanks to exceptional earnings prospects.

However, the accountancy giant has fallen to three-month lows in Wednesday trading, with investors taking fright after the release of first-quarter trading numbers. The share was last 9% lower in the day.

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Don’t be hasty!

Sage declared today that group organic revenues rose 6.3% between October-December, disappointing market expectations and signalling a soft start to the year.

I think that today’s sell-off is looking just a tad OTT. However, even if it also reflects not-insignificant amounts of profit booking after recent share price strength, Sage has seen its market value swell 30% in the 12 months to the start of today’s trading.

Indeed, there was still plenty to cheer in the FTSE 100 giant’s latest release. Organic recurring revenues grew 7% in the first quarter, thanks to software subscription growth of 26%.

These early results haven’t exactly spooked Sage either, with chief executive Steve Hare commenting: “Quarter one results are in line with our expectations.” He added that the huge sums it has dedicated to sales training in the period has pushed some revenues into the second quarter.

And Hare expects sales to pick up steam in the months ahead, noting: “We expect acceleration throughout the year including a stronger quarter two and we reiterate our full year guidance of around 8% organic revenue growth and around 27.5% organic operating margin for [fiscal 2018].”

Bright forecasts

Sage has long been a reliable pick for investors seeking robust earnings growth, and City analysts are not expecting the firm’s bottom line to stop swelling any time soon.

A 12% profits improvement is forecast for the year to September 2018, and an additional 10% increase is forecast for next year.

And this bright outlook means that share pickers can look forward to increasingly-appetising dividends, too. Sage’s ultra-progressive policy is expected to push the dividend from 15.42p in fiscal 2017 to 17p this year, and to 18.7p in the following period, so share pickers can bask in chunky yields of 2.3% this year and 2.5% next.

Sage can still be considered an expensive pick despite today’s market slump, its forward P/E ratio of 22 times sailing above the widely-regarded value terrain of 15 times and below.

But in my opinion the company is worthy of this premium given the terrific progress it is making in the growth market of North America. And with new product launches in recent months set to be followed with more in the months ahead, I expect sales to pick up sooner rather than later.

Home comforts

The gaping imbalance between homes supply and demand in Ireland means that Cairn Homes (LSE: CRN) is another great growth bet for investors to tap into today.

Just this month, the Dublin business commented: “The supply of new residential homes in the Irish market will continue to significantly undershoot demand in 2018 and 2019,” adding: “This, allied with strong demographics, strengthening mortgage market fundamentals and a growing economy are all supportive of Cairn’s business model.”

So in 2018, City brokers are predicting that earnings will explode 427%, an estimate which also leaves the builder dealing on a dirt-cheap forward P/E ratio of 9.9 times. Another 81% advance is forecast for 2019, and it’s not difficult to see profits powering higher beyond this as Cairn plans to turbocharge build rates through to the end of the decade.

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Royston Wild has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Sage Group. 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.

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