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Four shares the pros are buying and selling

Our regular roundup of trades by professional investors, featuring Hargreaves Services, Ascential, Cabot Energy and Driver Group.

by David Campbell, Selin Bucak on Mar 19, 2018 at 05:00

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Key stats
Market capitalisation£109m
No. of shares out32m
No. of shares floating28m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees1960
Trading volume (10 day avg.)m
Turnover£343m
Profit before tax£9m
Earnings per share15.92p
Cashflow per share53.59p
Cash per share87.17p

Hargreaves Services (HASE)

Who’s trading? Citywire AAA-rated Mark Niznik

The trade: Niznik cut the stake in aggregates firm Hargreaves Services held by his Artemis Smaller Companies fund from 11% of shares to 10.9%, worth £12.1 million at a price of 344p

How have the shares performed? After more than doubling from the bottom of the commodity cycle in 2016 to 339p a year ago, they have remained tightly range bound offering little headway since.

What does the company say? The business described 2015 as a ‘perfect storm’ as its coal division was blasted by plunging commodity prices. The ‘last man standing’ in wholesale UK coal exited the sector last year and began to repurpose former collieries as possible residential development sites.

What’s the outlook? Following a hard bounce on a cyclical energy recovery investors now appear to be waiting for further evidence of progress before bidding on growth. Analyst coverage of the business is scant with house broker Investec rating the business a 'buy' on a price target of 491p.

Key stats
Market capitalisation£1,673m
No. of shares out401m
No. of shares floating394m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees1557
Trading volume (10 day avg.)1m
Turnover£376m
Profit before tax£115m
Earnings per share5.49p
Cashflow per share14.59p
Cash per share11.43p

Ascential (ASCL)

Who’s trading? Citywire AAA-rated Richard Watts

The trade: Watts reduced his stake in media company Ascential from 20% to 19.8%, worth £330 million at a share price of 415p. The shares are mainly held in his Old Mutual Mid Cap fund.

How have the shares performed? Over one year, the share price has gone up 31% to 415p, down slightly from a 52-week high of 419p.

What does the company say? Ascential, formerly Emap, reported revenue growth of £375.8 million from continuing operations in its full year results to 31 December 2017. Profit surged to £33.1 million from a loss of £1.8 million in the previous year. Alongside a number of growth initiatives, it also announced a strategic review into its exhibitions business.

What’s the outlook? In 2018, the company said it will be looking to establish financial technology payments event platform Money 20/20 in four other markets. Chief executive Duncan Painter commented: ‘We will continue to critically assess the potential of our brands to support these goals and where to allocate capital.’ Citigroup has reiterated its 'buy' rating on the stock on a price target of 475p, while Numis Securities raised its target from 405p to 455p.

Key stats
Market capitalisation£28m
No. of shares out648m
No. of shares floating256m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees11
Trading volume (10 day avg.)m
Turnover3m USD
Profit before tax-1m USD
Earnings per share0.01 USD
Cashflow per share0.02 USD
Cash per share0.02 USD

Cabot Energy (CABC)

Who’s trading? Citywire A-rated Paul Mumford

The trade: Mumford upped his stake in Cabot Energy – formerly Northern Petroleum – from 9.9% to just over 10% worth £2.7 million at a share price of 4p.

How have the shares performed? The price cratered alongside the oil price, falling from a 2011 high of 138p to a 2016 low of just 2.3p, which is when Mumford began to gear up his exposure.

What does the company say? The business raised £1 million in new equity late last year at 5p a share to buy out a joint venture partner and in January unveiled aggressive output targets

What’s the outlook? Mumford has a strong track record in picking oil minnow winners. Broker GMP Securities rates Cabot a 'buy' on a price target of 8p

Key stats
Market capitalisation£41m
No. of shares out54m
No. of shares floating42m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees408
Trading volume (10 day avg.)m
Turnover£60m
Profit before tax£4m
Earnings per share2.79p
Cashflow per share5.48p
Cash per share9.16p

Driver Group (DRV)

Who’s trading? Citywire AA-rated Keith Ashworth-Lloyd

The trade: Largest shareholder Ashworth-Lloyd upped his holding in construction consultant Driver Group from 17.3% of shares to 18.7%, worth £7.1 million at a price of 71p.

How have the shares performed? Investors bid Driver to a two-year high above 70p last month, more than twice the post-Brexit low of 33p, following results ‘comfortably ahead’ of forecast.

What does the company say? Management have recently struck a cheery tone on a ‘healthy pipeline’ of work, saying this year’s revenue is likely to handily beat last year’s £60 million.

What’s the outlook? The business has been in turnaround since 2015 and filed a loss in 2016 before refinancing last year, and remains relatively modestly valued compared to its peer group.

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Look up the shares

  • Ascential PLC (ASCL.L)
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  • Cabot Energy PLC (CABC.L)
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  • Driver Group PLC (DRV.L)
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  • Hargreaves Services PLC (HASE.L)
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Look up the fund managers

  • Keith Ashworth-Lord
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  • Mark Niznik
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  • Paul Mumford
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  • Richard Watts
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