India-focused oil refiner and power generator Essar Energy's third-quarter trading update on Monday showed encouraging signs across its portfolio. The FTSE 250 energy group owns the giant Vadinar refinery in Gujarat and a string of power plants across India in which it intends to burn coal from its own mines, capitalising on India's burgeoning energy demand. Having invested in major upgrades and construction projects, Essar also has a hefty debt pile; its financing cost for the half-year to last September rose to 400m dollars (255m pounds). Furthermore, anyone who bought into Essar when it floated in the UK at 420p in 2010 will need no reminder of the risks of operating in India; setbacks at Mahan and a tax ruling against it helped wipe 75 per cent off its value within the first two years.
Nevertheless, there is further upside if a debt refinancing and power projects proceed as well as hoped; and the average target price on the stock for nine analysts monitored by Bloomberg is 201p. Even so, after the recent sharp rally Questor remains concerned about valuations in general; it is therefore especially reticent about a company with as much short-term risk to execution as Essar. Avoid, Questor says.
With a market capitalisation of more than 1.2bn pounds, HICL Infrastructure Company is the biggest infrastructure fund in Europe concentrating on social investments such as schools and transport. But it is not an easy company to understand. HICL specialises in investments in assets that have an assured income stream stretching out for decades. Its business model is to go out regularly into the market and issue fresh shares
to fund the pipeline of investments it can detect. A further fundraising is in train, with details expected in a couple of weeks.
It has bolstered the forthcoming issue by giving out a new net asset value figure, as at the end of December, of 115.8p, excluding any dividend income. The share price, 1231/2p last night, therefore trades at a 5 per cent premium to this, about the middle of the normal trading range. Worth holding for that safe yield, then, if that is what you want from your investment, Tempus says.
Some time within the next couple of weeks or so, Locog will hand down the fine for its failings in last year's Olympic Games and G4S finally can put the sorry saga behind it. The company has already put aside £50m as an exceptional item to cover the fine and other expenses. A note from Panmure Gordon, though raising its target price for the shares, speculates that this may not be enough to cover all the damage, with a figure of £60m to £70m mentioned. "We shall see," says The Times´s Tempus.
G4S has not updated the market since the autumn, but a couple of weeks ago Babcock International came out with a cheerful trading statement that suggested plenty of outsourcing opportunities out there. Its results on March 13th should show that G4S continues to struggle on the Continent. Yett the company is still on track to generate half of its revenues from emerging markets by 2019. The shares, after a difficult 2012, have outperformed the market so far this year; further advances may be limited, therefore, even if at last night's 280¼p they sell on a relatively modest 11.4 times' this year's earnings, Tempus concludes.
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