2 FTSE Shares With Momentum: Ashtead Group plc and Serco Group plc

Big BenFTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) stocks are bouncing back after the global markets were knocked silly yesterday.

Threat of a war breaking out after Russia’s military advanced into Ukraine sparked a mass sell off of shares. The price of gold — looked upon as a safe haven during conflict — hit a four-month high, leading to a few miners benefiting, meanwhile even the most defensive stocks traded down.

Russia, which sent troops into Crimea to protect its citizens, appears open to dialogue, and tensions have eased.

At the time of writing, the FTSE 100 is recovering from its two week low, up 107 points, or 1.6%, to 6,815.

Here are two shares that should outstrip the FTSE’s gains today:

Ashtead Group

Shares in Ashtead Group (LSE: AHT), which rents industrial equipment, are up 12%, adding 101p to 947p on the back of a strong third quarter earnings report. Today’s top riser revealed a bumper forecast for the full year.

From November to January profits surged 54% higher on strong demand in the US and Britain. The chief executive, Geoff Drabble, commented “we now anticipate a full year profit ahead of our previous expectations and the Board looks forward to the medium term with continued confidence.”

Ashtead added that revenue improved 22% to £400m and all in all the results were pretty glowing.

Before today analysts were expecting Ashtead’s upcoming annual results to reveal earnings per share of 49p while a dividend yield of 1.4% is expected. 


After a year of crisis for outsourcing group Serco (LSE: SRP) — in which two profit warnings arrived in the last four months, while a £91m settlement was agreed after it mischarged the government — the impending arrival of former Aggreko boss Rupert Soames has managed to cheer investors.

Despite posting a fall in profits of 62% to £106m in 2013 shares are up almost 4% to 466p.

Mr Soames, who personally contacted headhunters to ask for the job, will be expected to work wonders. It won’t be an overnight fix, but given his track record — Aggreko’s market value increased twelvefold on his watch — he seems to be as good as anyone they could have feasibly got for the job.

Analyst consensus is that earnings per share will fall 25% in 2014 but the dividend is likely to stay fixed.

Our recommendation

Of course, the decision to 'buy' either of these shares -- based on today's results and the wider prospects for each industry, as well as the market -- is down to you.

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> Mark does not own shares in any company mentioned.