Don't try to please everyone, at best you will only please some of them some of the time. The advice given to most children holds true for Barclays Chief Executive Antony Jenkins. Since taking the helm in 2012 he has undertaken measures to please most stakeholders in the lender: government (regulators); government (politicians); shareholders (through dividends); and staff (via higher bonuses).
Unfortunately, you wouldn't know it if you looked at the share price. At 0.8 times tangible book they are trding at the low end of the European banks' range. Unfair? Well, overall there was scant evidence in the numbers that the pick-up in economic growth was filtering through to profits - except at its consumer unit Barclaycard. Should the bank be rejigged yet again? Indeed not, it's the last thing that it needs. Purchasing Barclays stock is buying exposure to a slowly improving economy, which should help Jenkins please some of the people, some of the time, says the Financial Times' Lex column.
Progress at travel tour operator Thomas Cook has been startling since new Chief Harriet Green came on board back in 2012. The company has been re-focused - at one point it was juggling 82 brands - and it has added new destinations, such as Cuba and the Cape Verde islands. The effect on its top line has been immediate, with revenues up by 2.4% for the full year to the end of December. To take into account as well, three years on from the Arab spring the political situation in some of its classic North African destinations, such as Tunisia, has improved.
The firm has also divested non-core businesses such as Gold Medal and Elegant Resorts, meeting its target for £125m in proceeds from disposals 18 months ahead of schedule. The shares
now sell at a halfway realistic multiple of 16 times this year's earnings, but progress from here is likely to be more pedestrian, writes The Times' Tempus.
Things are looking up for support services outfit Babcock. In particular, while the confirmed order book had fallen slightly by the end of September, to £11.5bn from £12bn one year ago, £700m worth of recent contract wins should soon be added to that tally. As well, the firm says the potential pipeline of contracts has grown from £15.5bn to about £18.5bn now. Furthermore, the company has a "huge opportunity" in front of it, to become joint owner of the Defence Support Group (DSG) - supplying parts and maintenance for all of the Army's armoured vehicles.
Further buttressing the outlook for the shares, the company is a strong cash generator and its earnings per share are expected to grow at double-digit rates. In the past the stock has made a good long-run investment, but at 17 times' earnings the shares are looking a little bit expensive when compared to the historical average of 12 times, which "is a little bit too rich," says The Daily Telegraph's Questor column.
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