Public transport operator FirstGroup(LSE: FGP) is one of Britain's largest transport companies with operations in both the UK and North America. The company's shares have been on the slide for quite some time and earlier this year sank to five-year lows of 80.75p, a far cry from their credit-crunch peak of 664p. So is it time for bargain hunters to step in and buy this multinational transport giant on the cheap, or is there more shareholder pain waiting further down the line?
On the road to recovery?
In its last trading update the Aberdeen-based firm reported a small dip in revenues, but says it expects to make strong progress for the full year despite a challenging and uncertain trading environment in many of its key markets. Like-for-like passenger revenues were down by 1.4% in its UK First Bus business as a result of lower high street retail footfall and congestion in the UK, with muted passenger demand in the US contributing to a small 0.5% dip in revenue in its US Greyhound coach business. By contrast, the group's First Student, First Transit and First Rail businesses all boasted higher revenues over the same period.
Despite the slightly disappointing numbers, FirstGroup expects full-year results to be significantly weighted to the second half of its financial year. This is due to the timing of school holidays in North America where it remains the largest provider of student transportation. And it should additionally benefit from weaker sterling as more than two-thirds of operating profit is generated in the US and Canada. Broker consensus estimates suggest an 18% rise in earnings for the year to the end of March 2017, followed by another healthy 12% improvement for FY2018. With the shares trading near multi-year lows, I think FirstGroup remains a steal at just nine times forward earnings.
Flexible workspace solutions provider Regus(LSE: RGU) has established an excellent record of growth over the years as it maintains its policy of expansion and continues to open new business centres throughout the world. The mid-cap support services company now operates in 106 countries, with over 3,000 business centres, making it the world's largest provider of flexible workspace. In its last update, the Luxembourg-based firm announced a strong set of interim results with revenues rising by 10.3% and underlying operating profits 30% higher compared to the first half of 2015.
City analysts don't expect a let-up in growth anytime soon, with a 32% rise in underlying profits forecast for the current year, followed by a further 21% improvement in 2017. Companies with such strong growth forecasts would normally command a premium valuation, but Regus currently trades on an undemanding earnings multiple of just 15 for 2017, leaving me with no doubt that this is an unmissable opportunity to buy into the long-term growth story at a very reasonable price.
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Bilaal Mohamed has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.