Shares in education provider Pearson (LSE: PSON) have risen by over 5% today after it announced 2015 results thatwere in line with guidance.
Clearly, the company is enduring a very challenging period, with a fall in sales of 2% being evidence of this. Similarly, adjusted operating profit fell by 2% versus the 2014 figure, with an operating loss being recorded in the companys growth segment, partly offset by stronger performance from Penguin Random House. And with adjusted operating profit due to fall in 2016 to around 600m from 2015s 723m, things are set to get worse before they get better for Pearson.
However, the companys restructuring programme seems to be on track to deliver much improved performance over the medium-to-long term. In fact, Pearson is guiding the market towards an adjusted operating profit of over 800m in 2018 and this has the potential to significantly improve investor sentiment in the stock.
With it trading on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 15.6, Pearson isnt particularly cheap. But with major improvements to its business model on the horizon, it still seems to be a worthy purchase for long-term investors.
Also reporting today was Intu Properties (LSE: INTU), with the shopping centre owner reporting a rise in underlying earnings of 7% and a 4% revaluation surplus, which takes the value of its investment properties to 9.6bn. And with Intu experiencing a return to like-for-like (LFL) growth in net rental income, it appears to be making encouraging progress.
Furthermore, Intu is benefitting from improving consumer confidence in the UKs regions outside of London, with lettings being in aggregate 10% ahead of previous passing rent, and occupancy levels being at an improved 96% level. This bodes well for Intus development programme, where it expects to undertake around 600m of mixed retail and leisure projects in the next three years in the UK, as well as the commencement of its Spanish shopping resort in the Costa del Sol.
With Intu currently yielding 4.8%, it remains a relatively appealing income play. And with a price-to-book (P/B) ratio of just 0.76, it offers upside potential, too.
Meanwhile, shares in bookmaker William Hill (LSE: WMH) have fallen by around 2% today in a rising wider market as it announced a fall in profit in the 2015 financial year. After-tax profit fell by 8%, while earnings per share declined by 17% on an adjusted basis, due in part to a tough 2014 comparator, as well as increased gambling duties in the UK.
Despite this, William Hill remains confident in its outlook for 2016 and beyond. Evidence of this can be seen in its decision to increase its dividend payout ratio to 50%, while it will also commence a share buyback programme over the next year thatwill cost around 200m. Furthermore, William Hill continues to make progress with its technology strategy, with its international operations also improving their outlook.
However, with William Hill trading on a forward P/E ratio of 15.8, it appears to be rather richly valued. Therefore, there seem to be better buys elsewhere.
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