Budget airline easyJet (LSE: EZJ) has seen its share price climb 3% following publication of results for the half year to 31 March. It is now up 35% in the last six months, a handsome reward for investors who heeded Peter Stephens’ advice last autumn to buy and hold this stock forever.
Take it easy
Today’s figures show passenger numbers increasing 3m to 36.8m, helped by 700,000 from easyJet’s new Berlin Tegel operations, launched in January. Total capacity increased 7.8% as the firm grew its existing network by 4.6% and added 1.2m seats at Tegel.
Total revenue increased by 19.5% to £2.18bn, while total revenue per seat jumped 10.9% to £54.10. The carrier also hailed its balance sheet strength, with a net cash position of £665m, and forward bookings up on last year.
It did post a total headline loss before tax of £18m, but this marked a major improvement on last year’s £194m. The airline has been boosted by the failure of rivals Monarch, Air Berlin and Alitalia but should also be praised for swooping in to pick up their routes, while others stood on the sidelines. However, it has struggled to cut non-fuel costs, which could prove a problem if the economy slows and consumers start pinching the pennies. It also has to contend with a higher fuel price going forward.
Still, management is predicting headline profit before tax for the year to 30 September of between £530 and £580m, despite a headline loss from Tegel. A forward valuation of 16.7 times earnings is a tad pricey but reflects investor confidence. Forecast earnings per share (EPS) of 29% and 19% over the next two years, and a predicted yield of 3%, suggest it is time to joint the easyJet set. I’d buy.
Give me LAND
Land Securities Group (LSE: LAND) has done less to convince the market today, its shares down a percentage point on its annual results to 31 March, despite the group boasting “an active and successful year”. Robert Noel, chief executive of LandSec, as the real estate investment trust (REIT) now styles itself, heralded one of its best years for leasing space: “We bought and sold well, returned capital to shareholders and continued to reduce our cost of debt.”
The group returned £475m to shareholders and refinanced more than £1.5bn in bonds to reduce its average debt costs to 2.6% while lengthening its duration to 13.1 years. However, refinancing costs were behind its reported £251m loss for the year.
Shop ’til you drop
On the plus side, revenue profit increased by 6.3% to £406m while adjusted diluted EPS rose by 9.9% to 53.1p. It recommended a final dividend of 14.65p, lifting the annual dividend a generous 14.7%. LandSec currently offers a forecast yield of 4.5%, covered 1.3 times.
City analysts are predicting single-digit EPS growth over the next three years, disappointing since it trades at a forecast valuation of 17.5 times earnings. Peter Stephens praises its diversified portfolio of assets and strong balance sheet, although I am slightly concerned by its exposure to retail parks and shopping centres, given struggling consumers and the shift to online shopping. A solid income play, though.
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harveyj has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Land Securities 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.