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Press headlines & tips: Croda, Whitbread, Go-Ahead

Press headlines & tips: Croda, Whitbread, Go-Ahead


In the Telegraph, the Questor column puts speciality chemicals maker Croda firmly under the microscope.

It makes many of the ingredients for cosmetics like lipstick and yesterday reported sales up 4.7 per cent in the first quarter. The shares have been going great guns this year, up nearly 30 per cent since December. That rise has left them at an earnings multiple of 16.7 times 2012 forecast earnings. Questor says hold (Last IC rating: Buy, 21 Feb).

Whitbread, the company which owns the Premier Inn, Costa Coffee, Beefeater and Brewers Fayre chains, achieved underlying profits up 38 per cent in the full year to the beginning of March. For Tempus in the Times this is enough to take a hard look at the stock.

Broadly, Premier Inns and Costa are doing well, Brewers Fayre and Beefeater less so. The shares have gained 13.5 per cent over the last 12 months and now trade at 13 times earnings. Tempus believes the competition is too hot for there to be much progress, the stock is a leave (Last IC rating: Fairly priced, 18 Oct).

Train and bus operator Go-Ahead reported increasing passenger numbers and Tempus likes the fact 90 per cent of the company's bus income comes from the robust southeast of England as opposed to its transport rivals trying to seek a living in the north. With the stock trading on less than eight times future earnings, Tempus says buy for the long term (Last IC rating: Hold, 24 Feb).


Business press headlines:

Argentina vowed to press criminal and civil charges on British oil companies exploring off the Falkland Islands if they do not "justify their actions" by a May 2 deadline. In its latest escalation of rhetoric over the disputed islands, Argentina said it had written to Falkland Oil & Gas (FOGL), Borders & Southern, Rockhopper, Desire Petroleum and Argos Resources on April 17, to "notify them of their illicit actions and their consequences. In case of failure to offer a response and once the deadline expires, administrative sanctions will be imposed to each company within the framework of an Energy Secretariat resolution which deems these activities illegal. The Argentine government will also press criminal and civil charges," it said, according to The Telegraph.

Motorists are facing the renewed threat of a crippling fuel strike after union leaders urged tanker drivers to reject the latest offer from their employers to end the long-running dispute. About 2,000 staff across seven separate firms have been told to turn down a peace deal aimed at averting industrial action. A meeting of union delegates voted "overwhelmingly" in favour of recommending rejection of the proposals. Eight days of talks had been held at conciliation service Acas to try to head off the prospect of strike action over issues including drivers' terms and conditions, pensions, and health and safety, The Scotsman reports.

Business leaders have launched a robust defence of executive pay, claiming that the idea of a "cosy club" of directors patting each other's backs and setting salaries for one another is a "myth". In its submission to the Government consultation on improving transparency over executive pay, which closes on Friday, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said high pay is justified in return for excellent performance. The business group warned of misreading a widely-quoted survey from last year, which claimed chief executive pay had risen by 49 per cent in just 12 months. The survey from pay consultancy Incomes Data Services, which used average figures, was "skewed" by very high salaries awarded to the very few, the CBI said, The Telegraph reports.

Russian oil company Exillon Energy paid out nearly £1m on private jets, school fees and credit card payments for its former chairman Maksat Arip - but failed to disclose the payments. The money was used to fund Mr Arip's international lifestyle shuttling between Britain, Russia and Dubai, and for his children's private education. But it has emerged that the company executive who approved the payments could not speak English, and therefore apparently would not have been able to read the rules concerning the disclosure of payments to directors, none of which had been translated into Russian. A Financial Services Authority investigation has concluded that although there was nothing wrong technically in the company paying the cash to its former chairman but that Exillon should be censured for failing to disclose the payments, The Telegraph reports.

Standard & Poor's has cut Spain's credit rating by two notches and warned that it is already considering a further downgrade, forecasting that the country's economy would contract for the next two years. "Spain's budget trajectory will likely deteriorate against a background of economic contraction in contrast with our previous projections," the credit ratings agency cautioned. S&P also said that it saw an increasing likelihood that Spain's Government would have to take on more debt in order to support its banking sector. As such the agency has downgraded Spain to BBB+ status from A and immediately put a negative outlook on its new rating, citing "significant risks" to the country's economic growth and budgetary performance, The Times says.

None of the jetliners criss-crossing global skies are built in the UK - but providing parts for the giant manufacturers of Boeing and Airbus is proving good business for British suppliers. Shares in Senior took wing to a 14-year high yesterday, 8½p better at 212p, after the British engineer said that it was on course to increase profits by more than a fifth on the back of a renaissance in the civil aviation market. Deliveries of Boeing and Airbus aircraft were 20 per cent better in the first trading quarter of the year. Boeing has got its nose cone in front with a 32 per cent year-on-year lift to 137 aircraft delivered, while Airbus was 10 per cent better at 131, according to The Times.

The stock market listing of Santander UK is set to be shelved until 2014 after the bank warned that profits this year and next would be lower than it had hoped. Santander UK posted a 40 per cent drop in first-quarter pre-tax profits to £347m. Rising mortgage arrears and a blow-out in bad debts on non-core loans to shipping and infrastructure companies and aircraft leases led to a 39 per cent rise in impairments to £179m. The bank was also hit by an increase in the cost of funding, with higher interest rates paid to depositors and to wholesale lenders shrinking the key net interest margin from 1.77 per cent to 1.57 per cent, writes The Times.

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