Do Budget Changes Make Premier Oil PLC, Nichols plc and Britvic Plc A Buy?

Photo: Lee Davy. Licence:
Photo: Lee Davy. Licence:

Today's Budget has triggered sharp moves in the price of a number of popular UK shares. In this article, I'll take a look at three of the biggest movers and ask whether the changes announced in the Budget will have an effect on future profits.


A sweet surprise

The biggest surprise in the 2016 Budget was probably the Chancellor's decision to introduce a sugar tax.

Shares in manufacturers of sugary drinks quickly slid lower, but do investors need to be concerned? Chancellor Osborne is planning a two-tier levy on sugary drinks, with rates for drinks with over 5g of sugar per 100ml and drinks with more than 8g per 100ml.

Mr Osborne aims to raise £520m from the new levy, but it won't come into force for another two years. This delay didn't stop shares in soft drinks firms such as Nichols (LSE: NICL) and Britvic (LSE: BVIC) falling sharply, but do investors need to be concerned?

I've taken a quick look at the sugar content of a number of popular soft drinks made by Britvic and Nichols. It's clear that both companies have a number of products which may be affected by the levy. However, both firms also offer no-added sugar versions of their most popular products. In addition to this, many of the more sugary drinks have sugar contents that are only slightly higher than 8g/100ml.

What I suspect will happen over the next two years is that high sugar drinks will be reformulated to reduce sugar content to less than 8g/100ml. Other drinks may be phased out completely, or converted into sub-5g/100ml drinks. The firms may also lift prices slightly to offset the sugar tax.

My view is that this new tax is only likely to have a marginal effect on profits, if any at all. I wouldn't buy or sell shares in Britvic and Nichols based on today's news.

Oil tax cut

Another big story for UK investors was the Chancellor's decision to cut the tax on oil and gas production.

One of the biggest stock market movers following this news was Premier Oil (LSE: PMO), whose shares rose by 10%.

The Chancellor abolished the Petroleum Revenue Tax and announced plans to cut the supplementary charge on oil and gas from 20% to 10%. On the face of it, it looks like good news for firms such as Premier Oil, which produce a substantial amount of oil in the North Sea.

The only problem is that Premier already has $3.5bn of UK tax losses which it can offset against future North Sea production. Today's tax cuts will reduce the value of these losses a little, but that's all.

A more serious concern for shareholders in Premier Oil is the firm's $2.2bn net debt. Tony Durrant, Premier's chief executive, warned investors in the firm's latest results that "further relaxation of covenants may be required" if oil prices do not start to recover.

If this happens, Premier's lenders may force the firm to raise some cash by issuing new shares. That would almost certainly mean heavy dilution for existing shareholders. These debt risks mean that Premier remains a stock to avoid, in my view.

I don't think that soft drinks or oil stocks are compelling buys at the moment. I'm convinced there are better opportunities elsewhere.

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Roland Head has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Britvic. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.