Ascential (LSE: ASCL) sprang to fresh record peaks on Monday after a positive reception to full-year financials.
The media colossus was last dealing 6% higher in start-of-week trade at 400p per share, taking total gains over the past year to 34%. And I fully expect Ascential to continue its northwards trek as its ambitious sales strategy grinds through the gears.
The FTSE 250 business declared “another year of good organic growth” in 2017, “underpinned by strong customer retention and product innovation” in 2017. Revenues from continuing operations climbed 25% year-on-year in 2017, to £375.8m. Organic turnover at constant currencies increased 6.4%.
As a result, pre-tax profit vaulted to £32.7m in 2017 from £3.5m a year earlier.
It comes as little surprise that the London firm’s share price continues to make such impressive headway. Today the company commented that “the year ahead presents great opportunity for Ascential. Economic markets, particularly for our most important brands, remain strong, particularly with our focus on supporting customer success in the digital economy.”
Indeed, the decision to prioritise high growth brands in the digital realm remains an underutilised space that provides plenty of revenues opportunities in the years ahead. As Ascential said: “Many of our clients currently achieve less than 20% of their total sales through digital channels. They themselves recognise the need to move faster to drive this critical transition and, with our developments in the last 18 months, we are now very well positioned to assist them.”
City analysts are expecting the media star to carve out a fractional earnings improvement in 2018 before profits growth ignites further out — a 15% rise is forecast for 2019. True, Ascential may not come cheap, it carrying a forward P/E ratio of 21.6 times. But I believe the prospect of strong and sustained sales expansion long into the future makes the company worthy of such a premium.
I reckon Randgold Resources (LSE: RRS) is another share worth buying and hanging onto for the years ahead.
Exposure to gold is a brilliant bet to have in one’s share portfolio as last month’s mild share market sell-off revealed. Whilst riskier assets may be back on the buying agenda, a bear market may just be around the corner as central banks tighten the flow of ‘cheap money’ and fears of an overdue market correction persist, a situation that could push bullion prices skywards again.
City analysts believe Randgold Resources is a great growth bet in the medium term at least, helped by the FTSE 100 company’s surging production levels (these rose 5% in 2017 to 1.32m ounces). Indeed, current forecasts suggest earnings expansion of 22% and 4% in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
The gold digger carries an additional perk in that it is one of the Footsie’s more lucrative dividend payers too. The annual payout doubled last year to 200 US cents per share, and further growth — to 326 cents and 397 cents per share — is forecast for this year and next. Consequently yields stand at 3.8% for 2018 and 4.7% for 2019.
I reckon Randgold Resources is a brilliant buy in today’s climate even in spite of its high forward P/E ratio of 23.7 times.
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Royston Wild 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.