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The Expert View: Catlin Group, Informa and Bunzl

A roundup of some of analyst commentary on shares including Halma and Latchways.

Our daily round-up of analyst recommendations and commentary, featuring Catlin Group, Informa, Bunzl, Halma and Latchways.

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Key stats
Market capitalisation£1,808m
No. of shares out361m
No. of shares floating335m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees1827
Trading volume (10 day avg.)0m
Turnover2,390m USD
Profit before tax23m USD
Earnings per share0.07 USD
Cashflow per share0.10 USD
Cash per share3.69 USD

*Correct as at 19 Dec 2012

Canaccord increases target price for Hurricane Sandy-hit Catlin Group

Ben Cohen, analyst at Canaccord, has increased his target price for Catlin Group (CGL.L) in spite of the insurer warning its exposure to Hurricane Sandy would be at the top end of analyst estimates.

Catlin has quantified its loss from Sandy at $200 million, at the top end of the $50 million to $200 million consensus estimate and above Cohen's $175 million prediction. The company's management said the figure remains subject to revision, with reinsurance liability still uncertain.

However, Tuesday's statement also noted that January renewals for US reinsurance has changed from flat to -5% to flat to +5%, and that it has seen 'encouraging rate hardening from the casualty class'.

The analyst's 2012 earnings per share forecast falls by 23% on the basis of Sandy claims, but his 2013 top-line growth prediction rises to reflect the strong growth outlook from the US. His target price rises 2% to 505p.

Shares in the group closed at 500p on Wednesday, up 10.9p or 2.2%.

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Key stats
Market capitalisation£2,743m
No. of shares out603m
No. of shares floating592m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees8275
Trading volume (10 day avg.)1m
Turnover£1,275m
Profit before tax£75m
Earnings per share12.51p
Cashflow per share38.48p
Cash per share4.16p

*Correct as at 19 Dec 2012

Westhouse downgrades Informa as shares rise

Roddy Davidson, analyst at Westhouse, has downgraded publisher Informa (INF.L) from 'buy' to 'neutral' following a recent rise in the shares.

Since the interim management statment in October the shares have gained 12%, and over the past month they've outstripped the market by 15%, the analyst noted. Although the trading update saw a reiteration of full-year guidance, strong cash generation and tight cost control, organic revenues fell 2% year-on- year in the nine months to the end of September.

'On this basis subsequent strength appears to have been driven by bid speculation,' Davidson said. 'The fact that INF forecast to grow more slowly than its peers and displays a degree of variability in the quality of its underlying assets should be borne in mind. Limited synergies between its operating divisions also suggest that a more complex buy and break up approach may be required.'

Shares in the group closed at 455.35p on Wednesday, up 6.6p or 1.5%.

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Key stats
Market capitalisation£3,381m
No. of shares out332m
No. of shares floating324m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees11956
Trading volume (10 day avg.)1m
Turnover£5,110m
Profit before tax£124m
Earnings per share37.99p
Cashflow per share60.05p
Cash per share22.44p

*Correct as at 19 Dec 2012

Seymour Pierce downgrades Bunzl on earnings miss

Caroline de La Soujeole, analyst at Seymour Pierce, has downgraded outsourcing group Bunzl (BNZL.L) from 'hold' to 'reduce' following a trading update that missed his expectations.

Organic sales growth over the latest quarter fell to -0.8%, taking organic growth for the year as a whole to 2.5%, below the 3.1% the analyst had penciled in. She noted that this was a downward trend, with growth in the first and second quarters of 4.3%, followed by a decline to 2% in the third quarter.

'These results are a touch below our expectations,' de La Soujeole said. 'Reflecting this, we are reducing our forecasts slightly, taking adj pre-tax profit to £317.7 million (previously £319.5 million, consensus £318 million). The shares have had a good run over the past year outperforming the market by 13%. The shares are highly rated in our view, trading on a one year prospective price to earnings of 15.5x FY12E falling to 14.3x, compared with a five year through the cycle average of 13x.'

Shares in the group closed at £10.22 on Wednesday, down 43.9p or 4.1%.

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Key stats
Market capitalisation£1,717m
No. of shares out378m
No. of shares floating365m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees4347
Trading volume (10 day avg.)1m
Turnover£580m
Profit before tax£87m
Earnings per share22.97p
Cashflow per share30.30p
Cash per share12.01p

*Correct as at 19 Dec 2012

Investec lifts Halma's target price on MicroSurgical Technology acquisition

Chris Dyett, analyst at Investec, has increased his target price for technology business Halma (HLMA.L) following its acquisition of MicroSurgical Technology (MST).

US-based MST, which makes specialist gear for cataract surgery practitioners, will potentially be Halma’s largest-ever acquisition, with a maximum consideration of $100 million.

Dyett backed the acquisition, saying MST has room to grow. 'Historic double-digit revenue growth has been driven by acceptance of the products and the growth in cataract surgery in the US market,' he said. 'The scale of cataract-related blindness in the developing world suggests that growth could accelerate, as the appropriate regional and national product approvals are won and this should also be a driver for other operations within this division.'

On the back of the acquisition the analyst's 2014 earnings per share estimate increases 2.5%, and his target price goes from 460p to 495p.

Shares in the group closed at 454.7p on Wednesday, up 7.9p or 1.8%.

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Key stats
Market capitalisation£111m
No. of shares out11m
No. of shares floating10m
No. of common shareholdersnot stated
No. of employees246
Trading volume (10 day avg.)0m
Turnover£41m
Profit before tax£7m
Earnings per share63.39p
Cashflow per share71.40p
Cash per share74.95p

*Correct as at 19 Dec 2012

Peel Hunt backs Latchways with 'buy' recommendation

Christopher Bamberry, analyst at Peel Hunt, has initiated coverage of safety products maker Latchways (LTC.L) with a 'buy' recommendation, citing its growing international reach and product development.

The analyst said Latchways has delivered impressive margins (24% in 2012) and a high return on capital (56% in 2012).

'With significant revenue growth opportunities through product development, new market penetration and further geographic expansion, we expect that these will continue into the long term,' he said.

The shares trade on 12.1x estimated 2013 earnings, which Bamberry noted is a 10% discount to the FTSE Support Services sector and a 3% discount to the historical average.

Shares in the group closed at 991p on Wednesday, down 1.5p or 0.2%.

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