Market Musings 4/4/2012
It’s been a busy couple of days in college, so I’ve been rather neglecting this blog. Let’s round up on what’s been happening.
(Disclaimer: I have an indirect shareholding in DCC plc) DCC demonstrated its commitment to good portfolio management once more through the sale of its enterprise distribution business for €48.1m. While the group has earned well-deserved plaudits over the years for its successful acquisition strategy, it has not been averse to selling assets from time-to-time to maximise returns on capital employed – the sale of its mobility and rehabilitation business for €37m around 18 months ago and the brilliantly timed exiting of its Irish housebuilding jv come immediately to mind in this regard. As an aside, we’ve seen some unusually cold weather in the British Isles in recent days, with snow in parts of Ireland and Scotland. Given that DCC is the leading home heating fuel provider in those areas, I assume the cold snap hasn’t done the business any harm.
(Disclaimer: I am a shareholder in Marston’s plc) I’ve been doing some more work on Marston’s, the UK pub group I hold in my portfolio, to help deepen my understanding of the business. I am indebted to one of the posters on ADVFN for making a report known to me, which shows the 50 top selling beers in the UK off trade. Marston’s ‘Hobgoblin’ is the 8th most popular brand in the Ale category, while Marston’s ‘Pedigree’ is #15 in the same category. While most of the top selling beers are owned by significant global concerns, I was interested to see that there are several independents represented in the top 50. I don’t see Marston’s going on the acquisition trail anytime soon, given the state of its balance sheet, but on paper some of those independents offer a similar profile of integrated beer producer and pub operator to that which Marston’s offers. Who knows what the future could hold?
In the energy space, Kentz’s share price got thumped today (it’s down nearly 9% at the time of writing). The reason for this is a placing of stock by directors. Originally the firm guided that 12m shares – 10% or so of the shares in issue, would be sold, but in the event the size of the placing was increased due to strong institutional demand to 15m shares. The vendors have undertaken not to sell any more shares for another 6 months. I wonder if the indigestion from this sizable placing could lead to some near-term price weakness. In the event that it does, I am very likely to call my broker (!) – as regular readers of this blog are aware, Kentz is a stock I sold out of at 403p/share last year and have regretted doing so ever since, and if the price gets down towards the level I sold it at again it will offer outstanding value given the clear progress made in the past 18 months.
(Disclaimer: I am a shareholder in Irish Continental Group plc) Merrion Capital issued its Q2 2012 preview earlier this week. It’s main stock picks for this quarter are: Sandisk, Nuance Communications, Pearson, Anglo American, Deere, Alstom, Anadarko, Unilever, Weir and ICG.
(Disclaimer: I am a shareholder in Ryanair plc) Speaking of transport stocks, I was interested to hear Irish Transport Minister Leo Varadkar lend his voice to calls for 25% State-owned Aer Lingus to pay a dividend. This follows similar calls from Aer Lingus’ 29% shareholder Ryanair, so with a majority of the share register leaning that way, might we see an announcement of a pay-out later in 2012?
Switching to macro news, we received Q1 Exchequer Returns data from the Irish Department of Finance yesterday evening. While a lot of the media headlines hailed the deficit closing to €4.3bn from €7.1bn in the first 3 months of 2011, as ever, the devil is in the detail. The deficit for Q1 2011 included a €3.06bn promissory note payment, while the deficit for this year includes a €250m loan to the insurance compensation fund. Also, the ELG contributed €283m of revenue to the Exchequer in Q1 of this year (Q12011: nil). So, adjusting for these factors, it looks to me like the troubling underlying fiscal position, despite all the talk of austerity, is little changed.
Regular readers of this website will guess correctly that I was unsurprised to see the EU, US and others complain about Argentina’s restrictive trade policies to the WTO.