I am interested in FTSE 100 incumbents Compass Group (LSE:CPG) and Ashtead Group (LSE:AHT) and their current state of affairs in the market crash.
Risk or reward?
A major issue will be the fact that a lot of construction sites are closed due to the Covid 19 pandemic. This will be having a huge impact on Ashtead.
The market crash saw nearly 50% wiped off its Ashtead’s share value. The FTSE 100 index itself lost nearly 25%. On 19 February, Ashtead’s share price traded at 2,765p per share whereas the market bottom on 23 March saw a per share price of 1,335p. At the time of writing, Ashtead’s share price is over 1,900p per share.
Ashtead has performed admirably over the past few years. Revenue has increased year on year for the past five years which is a good indication of its strength. Profit levels increased between 2015 and 2018, falling slightly in 2019. It has also increased its dividend per share year on year for the past five years.
Ashtead released a trading update yesterday. It confirmed that its full-year results, to 30 April, should not be too badly impacted by Covid-19. It also confirmed that it has close to $4bn in credit facilities available to it to assist through this turbulent time.
Ashtead reported a freeze on recruitment, a pause on its share buyback scheme, and reduced planned capital expenditure. The company confirmed it would not be using the UK government’s Coronavirus Job Retention scheme. There was no mention of dividend payments, which may be a good sign.
I would not rush to buy cheap shares right now. The primary reason is that no one know when when construction levels will return to normal. Furthermore, Ashtead’s revenues, in large part, come from the UK and the US, two countries badly ravaged by this pandemic.
There are less risky options in the FTSE 100 for me.
FTSE 100 winner
The market crash saw close to 50% of the Compass share price value wiped off. Just after mid-February, shares were trading at close to 1,950p per share. Fast forward to the date of the FTSE 100 market crash bottom, 23 March, and shares closed at 1,002p per share. At the time of writing, its share price had climbed up close to 1,300p per share.
Compass has taken the step of releasing monthly Covid-19 updates. In its most recent update it confirmed 55% of its business is closed due to the lockdown. It reported that it was attempting to lower its cost base by around £450m per month. This was being done through a mixture of staff furloughs, reductions in salaries and working hours, and by limiting overtime and the use of contractors and temporary workers.
Importantly, it did confirm it possessed enough liquidity to avoid financial ruin. Compass confirmed it has close to £3bn in credit facilities. Another step it took was to postpone interim and final dividend payments, but will review this later.
For me, I expect Compass Group to recover nicely, along with the FTSE 100, once the lockdown ends. The reason I say this is because catering services will always be required. There is some short-term pain to be expected. However, if you are patient, I do feel 2021 could be a normal year of profitability and increasing dividend per share payments for Compass.
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Jabran Khan has no position in any 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.