Helical plc is keeping its head above Brexit's choppy waters

The Motley Fool

Anything related to the property market is very much out of favour since the Brexit referendum, but does that mean it's time for contrarian investors to get in? Here are two to consider.


Healthy lettings

Fears for property prices might be growing, but that shouldn't have any real effect on rental income. And today, Helical(LSE: HLCL) reported an 18% in net rental income for the first six months of the year to £24.6m, and the firm saw its net asset value per share rise by 3% to 471p . That's way in excess of its share price of 289p, even after a 10% price rise on the day of the results.

Earnings per share fell from 13p to 4.4p, but that happens with the erratic nature of this business, and forecasts suggest a return to March 2016 levels by 2018.

Helical saw the value of its investment properties pick up 4% on a like-for-like basis, with the value of London office properties up 5.3%. That beats the trend shown by others, though it might be skewed a little by Helical's big recent disposals -- this month the firm reported the sale of warehouses to the value of £26m, and of One King Street in Hammersmith for £34.5m.

Chief executive Gerald Kaye spoke of "uncertainty in the UK real estate market and widespread debate as to whether the 'property cycle' has peaked or is merely pausing," and that's largely been behind the plunge in the Helical share price after the Brexit vote.

Since 23 June, the price is down 28% even after today's rise, and it hasn't seen the same recovery as some other depressed shares in the subsequent months. Does that provide a buying opportunity?

Dividends look set to yield around 3%, and Mr Kaye reckons that "London will continue to be a World City attracting people, businesses and investors." I think he's right.

Brexit bargain?

Shares in St Modwen Properties(LSE: SMP) suffered the same Brexit hit. They've recovered a little and at 275p stand 18% down since the big day, though since August 2015 we've seen a fall of 44%.

For the year to 30 November, analysts are predicting an 80% fall in EPS, which would put the shares on a P/E of 14.5 -- the P/E had been falling sharply in previous years ahead of the mooted cyclical downturn. Earnings can be confusing though, with rises and falls in property values included in profits, so asset values and dividends probably make more sense.

Those dividends have been steadily rising and though the yield for this year should be around a low 2.2%, it would still be very well covered and looks safe.

St Modwen's first-half results released back in July showed a net asset value per share of 421p, which is well ahead of the brownfield developer's share price, and commercial developments contributed more than half of its property profits in the period.

It's still way too early to identify the eventual impact of the EU referendum result, and at H1 time chief executive Bill Oliver said "until we have more clarity we believe it is appropriate to take a more cautious approach to the delivery of our development strategy."

St Modwen could well be a good long-term investment, but we can afford to show the same caution mentioned by Mr Oliver.

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Alan Oscroft 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.