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View the rest of this gallery online at http://citywire.co.uk/money/gallery/a994063


Our daily roundup of analyst commentary on shares, also including BGEO and Hammerson.

Unilever shareholders not going to give in without a fight, says Hargreaves

The collapse of Kraft Heinz’s bid shows Unilever’s (ULVR) shareholders are unlikely to relinquish their grip on the shares anytime soon, said Hargreaves Lansdown.

Shares in Unilever fell 7.8% on Monday to £35.00, but remain 4.8% higher since news of the bid broke on Friday.

‘After the news broke that Kraft were in the frame for a takeover on Friday, Unilever’s initial reaction was frosty to say the least,’ said George Salmon, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

‘However, it is still surprising to see it shelved just one business day after the initial news broke.’

Salmon said the size premium of the deal ‘would always have been a consideration’ particularly as veteran investor Warren Buffett – one of the biggest names behind the bid – ‘hardly has a reputation for paying anything other than the price he sees fit’.

‘What exactly happened in this whirlwind of a story is yet to be fully revealed, but it looks like Unilever isn’t just playing hard to get,’ said Salmon. ‘It was always going to be a difficult pitch to convince shareholders to relinquish their grip on Unilever, given the expectations for the company to keep churning our resilient growth in the years to come.’

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Key stats
Market capitalisation £1,122m
No. of shares out 38.2m
No. of shares floating 36.8m
No. of common shareholders not stated
No. of employees 21,441
Turnover 263m GEL
Profit before tax 92.9m GEL
Earnings per share 2.43 GEL
Cashflow per share 2.76 GEL
Cash per share 13.64 GEL

Peel Hunt downgrades BGEO after share price rally

Peel Hunt has downgraded BGEO (BGEO), formerly Bank of Georgia, after a rally in the share price.

Anthony Da Costa downgraded his recommendation from ‘buy’ to ‘add’ with a target price of £34.50 on the stock, which was trading down 3%, or 96p at £30.10 at the time of writing.

‘The full-year headline numbers were behind our forecasts before fourth quarter cost of risk deteriorated, largely attributed to lari [Georgian currency] devaluation,’ he said.

‘Despite the increase, the bank delivered a return on equity of 22.1%. We move our recommendation from “buy” to “add” following the recent share price rally and remain positive on the Georgian banking sector.’

He added: ‘The group is confident it will continue to deliver high returns and strong performance in both the banking and investment businesses during 2017 and beyond, despite a challenging and uncertain macroeconomic backdrop, both globally and in the Caucasus region.’

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Key stats
Market capitalisation £4,682m
No. of shares out 793m
No. of shares floating 789m
No. of common shareholders not stated
No. of employees 468
Trading volume (10 day avg.) 3m
Turnover £236m
Profit before tax £727m
Earnings per share 92.62p
Cashflow per share 93.25p
Cash per share 4.72p

Hammerson’s property valuations looking stretched, says Numis

Numis is concerned about the sustainability of property developer Hammerson’s (HMSO) expansion plans following full-year results.

Analyst Robert Duncan reiterated his ‘reduce’ recommendation and target price of 504p on the stock, which was trading up 2.3%, or 13p, at 578p at the time of writing.

‘Hammerson is further increasing its exposure and we wonder how much longer this can be sustained, plus what the cost of delivering this growth really is,’ he said.

‘Hammerson has a good quality portfolio but we are concerned that asset valuations look increasingly stretched. With such a challenged outlook for UK retail sales and retailer profitability, we remain of the view that there is little reason to invest in retail pure plays and so, while the market’s initial response to [the] results is likely to be positive, we reiterate our “reduce” rating.’

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Key stats
Market capitalisation £5,081m
No. of shares out 1,016m
No. of shares floating 692m
No. of common shareholders not stated
No. of employees 18821
Trading volume (10 day avg.) 1m
Turnover £1,278m
Profit before tax £170m
Earnings per share 16.74p
Cashflow per share 27.67p
Cash per share 14.99p

Merlin isn’t expensive, says Barclays

Alton Towers owner Merlin Entertainment (MERL) may be trading on 21 times earnings but Barclays argues this isn’t expensive.

Analyst Vicki Stern reiterated her ‘overweight’ recommendation and increased the target price from 520p to 575p. At the time of writing the shares were up 1.7%, or 8.6p, at 498p.

She said: ‘It is true that the headline 2017 price/earnings of 21x does not sound attractive. We argue that it is.’

Wilson cited 2016-18 earnings per share compound annual growth rate of 16%, upside risks to 2017 forecasts and 23% potential upside to her 2020 earnings per share forecasts.

‘We see potential for a positive surprise for 2016 and a more constructive outlook for Midway (attractions) in 2017,’ she said. ‘While the shares have had a good run we remain positive into results.’

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Key stats
Market capitalisation £2,449m
No. of shares out 911m
No. of shares floating 851m
No. of common shareholders not stated
No. of employees 2071
Trading volume (10 day avg.) 8m
Turnover 1,483m USD
Profit before tax -1,043m USD
Earnings per share -1.15 USD
Cashflow per share -0.75 USD
Cash per share 0.23 USD

Jefferies upgrades Tullow Oil despite border dispute

Jefferies has upgraded Tullow Oil (TLW) after ‘remarkable stock performance’ despite production issues in the TEN area, comprising Tweneboa, Enyenra and Ntomme in Ghana.

Mark Wilson upgraded his recommendation from ‘underperform’ to ‘buy’ and increased the target price from 260p to 340p.

The stock was trading up 3.3%, or 8.7p, at 268p at the time of writing.

‘Tullow Oil will delever and the banks will refinance even with lower TEN rates,’ he said. ‘The oil price-linked stock run does not take away from a fundamentally improving investment case with proven plus probable reserve additions visible and material exploration catalysts,’ he said.

Wilson added that there had been ‘a remarkable stock performance in the face of material production issues’ due to Ghana’s border dispute.

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Key stats
Market capitalisation £99,878m
No. of shares out 2,839m
No. of shares floating 1,211m
No. of common shareholders not stated
No. of employees 168921
Trading volume (10 day avg.) 5m
Turnover 45,064m EUR
Profit before tax 4,432m EUR
Earnings per share 1.55 EUR
Cashflow per share 2.10 EUR
Cash per share 2.67 EUR

Unilever shareholders not going to give in without a fight, says Hargreaves

The collapse of Kraft Heinz’s bid shows Unilever’s (ULVR) shareholders are unlikely to relinquish their grip on the shares anytime soon, said Hargreaves Lansdown.

Shares in Unilever fell 7.8% on Monday to £35.00, but remain 4.8% higher since news of the bid broke on Friday.

‘After the news broke that Kraft were in the frame for a takeover on Friday, Unilever’s initial reaction was frosty to say the least,’ said George Salmon, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

‘However, it is still surprising to see it shelved just one business day after the initial news broke.’

Salmon said the size premium of the deal ‘would always have been a consideration’ particularly as veteran investor Warren Buffett – one of the biggest names behind the bid – ‘hardly has a reputation for paying anything other than the price he sees fit’.

‘What exactly happened in this whirlwind of a story is yet to be fully revealed, but it looks like Unilever isn’t just playing hard to get,’ said Salmon. ‘It was always going to be a difficult pitch to convince shareholders to relinquish their grip on Unilever, given the expectations for the company to keep churning our resilient growth in the years to come.’

Key stats
Market capitalisation £1,122m
No. of shares out 38.2m
No. of shares floating 36.8m
No. of common shareholders not stated
No. of employees 21,441
Turnover 263m GEL
Profit before tax 92.9m GEL
Earnings per share 2.43 GEL
Cashflow per share 2.76 GEL
Cash per share 13.64 GEL

Peel Hunt downgrades BGEO after share price rally

Peel Hunt has downgraded BGEO (BGEO), formerly Bank of Georgia, after a rally in the share price.

Anthony Da Costa downgraded his recommendation from ‘buy’ to ‘add’ with a target price of £34.50 on the stock, which was trading down 3%, or 96p at £30.10 at the time of writing.

‘The full-year headline numbers were behind our forecasts before fourth quarter cost of risk deteriorated, largely attributed to lari [Georgian currency] devaluation,’ he said.

‘Despite the increase, the bank delivered a return on equity of 22.1%. We move our recommendation from “buy” to “add” following the recent share price rally and remain positive on the Georgian banking sector.’

He added: ‘The group is confident it will continue to deliver high returns and strong performance in both the banking and investment businesses during 2017 and beyond, despite a challenging and uncertain macroeconomic backdrop, both globally and in the Caucasus region.’

Key stats
Market capitalisation £4,682m
No. of shares out 793m
No. of shares floating 789m
No. of common shareholders not stated
No. of employees 468
Trading volume (10 day avg.) 3m
Turnover £236m
Profit before tax £727m
Earnings per share 92.62p
Cashflow per share 93.25p
Cash per share 4.72p

Hammerson’s property valuations looking stretched, says Numis

Numis is concerned about the sustainability of property developer Hammerson’s (HMSO) expansion plans following full-year results.

Analyst Robert Duncan reiterated his ‘reduce’ recommendation and target price of 504p on the stock, which was trading up 2.3%, or 13p, at 578p at the time of writing.

‘Hammerson is further increasing its exposure and we wonder how much longer this can be sustained, plus what the cost of delivering this growth really is,’ he said.

‘Hammerson has a good quality portfolio but we are concerned that asset valuations look increasingly stretched. With such a challenged outlook for UK retail sales and retailer profitability, we remain of the view that there is little reason to invest in retail pure plays and so, while the market’s initial response to [the] results is likely to be positive, we reiterate our “reduce” rating.’

Key stats
Market capitalisation £5,081m
No. of shares out 1,016m
No. of shares floating 692m
No. of common shareholders not stated
No. of employees 18821
Trading volume (10 day avg.) 1m
Turnover £1,278m
Profit before tax £170m
Earnings per share 16.74p
Cashflow per share 27.67p
Cash per share 14.99p

Merlin isn’t expensive, says Barclays

Alton Towers owner Merlin Entertainment (MERL) may be trading on 21 times earnings but Barclays argues this isn’t expensive.

Analyst Vicki Stern reiterated her ‘overweight’ recommendation and increased the target price from 520p to 575p. At the time of writing the shares were up 1.7%, or 8.6p, at 498p.

She said: ‘It is true that the headline 2017 price/earnings of 21x does not sound attractive. We argue that it is.’

Wilson cited 2016-18 earnings per share compound annual growth rate of 16%, upside risks to 2017 forecasts and 23% potential upside to her 2020 earnings per share forecasts.

‘We see potential for a positive surprise for 2016 and a more constructive outlook for Midway (attractions) in 2017,’ she said. ‘While the shares have had a good run we remain positive into results.’

Key stats
Market capitalisation £2,449m
No. of shares out 911m
No. of shares floating 851m
No. of common shareholders not stated
No. of employees 2071
Trading volume (10 day avg.) 8m
Turnover 1,483m USD
Profit before tax -1,043m USD
Earnings per share -1.15 USD
Cashflow per share -0.75 USD
Cash per share 0.23 USD

Jefferies upgrades Tullow Oil despite border dispute

Jefferies has upgraded Tullow Oil (TLW) after ‘remarkable stock performance’ despite production issues in the TEN area, comprising Tweneboa, Enyenra and Ntomme in Ghana.

Mark Wilson upgraded his recommendation from ‘underperform’ to ‘buy’ and increased the target price from 260p to 340p.

The stock was trading up 3.3%, or 8.7p, at 268p at the time of writing.

‘Tullow Oil will delever and the banks will refinance even with lower TEN rates,’ he said. ‘The oil price-linked stock run does not take away from a fundamentally improving investment case with proven plus probable reserve additions visible and material exploration catalysts,’ he said.

Wilson added that there had been ‘a remarkable stock performance in the face of material production issues’ due to Ghana’s border dispute.



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