On the face of it, today's 2015 results from textile specialist Berendsen(LSE: BRSN) are rather disappointing. For example, its revenue has fallen by 3% versus the prior year, while its adjusted earnings are down by the same figure. However, this is mostly due to the negative impact of currency translation and if that's stripped out, Berendsen's 2015 results are much more positive.
In fact, its top line increased by 3%, while adjusted operating profit benefitted from a rise in margins of 30 basis points to record a rise of 5% versus the previous year. Encouragingly, Berendsen's return on invested capital rose by 40 basis points to 10.3%, while its free cash flow conversion remains strong at 99% of the adjusted after-tax profit figure.
This upbeat performance has enabled Berendsen to increase its dividend by 5%, which means that it now yields 2.9%. This is lower than the FTSE 100's yield of around 4%, and with Berendsen trading on a rather rich price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 17.7, it appears to be relatively unappealing compared to the wider index and therefore may struggle to outperform the FTSE 100 in the next three years.
Also reporting today was global consultancy business Ricardo(LSE: RCDO), with the first half of its financial year delivering significant revenue and profitability gains. The company's top line increased by 31% versus the comparable period from the prior year, with a strong order book of £201m (versus £140m as at 30 June 2015) indicating that its future performance could improve yet further.
In addition, Ricardo is enjoying success in its strategy to diversify the business, with it winning orders from across all geographies and market sectors in which it operates. And with its earnings rising by 31% in the first half of the year, it seems to be on track to deliver on its upbeat growth prospects.
Despite this, Ricardo continues to be rather expensive based on a P/E ratio of 17.3. This indicates that there's limited upward rerating potential, with a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of 2.7 showing that even when growth expectations are factored-in, Ricardo may struggle to beat the FTSE 100 over the coming years.
Meanwhile, Mediterranean-focused upstream gas company Sound Energy(LSE: SOU) has today announced the mobilisation of a rig for the upcoming first well at its Tendrara licence area, located in Morocco. The rig is due to arrive early next month from its current location in Mauritania.
Furthermore, Sound Energy also announced today that it has received final approval from the Moroccan National Environmental Committee for the first and second Tendrara wells. This means that there are no additional approvals required in order for drilling to commence.
Clearly, today's news is encouraging and shows that Sound Energy is making progress with its current strategy and plans. As such, it has the potential to beat the FTSE 100 over the next three years, but is highly dependent on news flow during that time, as well as investor sentiment towards the oil and gas sector, which will in turn be heavily influenced by the price of oil.
As such, and while Sound Energy may be worth a closer look for less risk-averse investors, the risk/reward ratio of many other companies could be preferable for long-term investors.
Peter Stephens has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Berendsen. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.