Although the polls suggest that the UK is likely to vote to remain in the EU on 23 June, it isn't a done deal. Polls have been wrong before and a sudden crisis, for example a eurozone meltdown or fresh refugee surge, could trigger a late shift in sentiment.
Brexit stage left
If the UK does back a Brexit, it will be a blow both to UK stock markets and the pound, which could fall by anything between 10% and 20%. Yet some companies are likely to benefit, as Russ Mould at trading platform AJ Bell has pointed out. This will be a great opportunity for UK-listed companies with hefty dollar earnings, notably the following three stocks.
FTSE 100-listed British industrial equipment rental company Ashtead Group(LSE: AHT) has massive exposure to the dollar, with US subsidiary Sunbelt Rentals operating from more than 513 locations in the country, and accounting for a whopping 85% of its revenues.
In March, Ashtead reported a 17% rise in group rental revenue to £1.675bn at constant exchange rates, generating a pre-tax profit of £481.8m, up 20%. The US business is both larger and growing at a faster pace. Sunbelt's revenues rose 21%, against just 9% at UK business A-Plant. Some investors have been worried by a slowdown in the US economy, notably in US non-residential construction markets, but this pales against the disruption Brexit would bring. Ashtead is up a whopping 444% over five years and there could be more excitement to come.
Plumbing and heating merchant Wolseley (LSE: WOS) also generates 85% of its revenues overseas, including a healthy chunk from the US, as well as the Nordics. It has also enjoyed a storming five years, its share price rising 106% in that time. In March, it reported continued growth and market share gains in US commercial and residential markets, although this was partly offset by weak industrial markets.
Again, the US was brighter than the UK, where Wolseley was forced to control costs and restructure to survive a challenging market. The Nordics are also doing better, and so will their currencies relative to the pound if Brexit wins the day (only Finland is in the euro).
BAE Systems(LSE: BA) has been on the back foot lately, its share price falling 6% over the past year as it continues to take a hit from austerity-driven defence spending cutbacks. Defence budgets are marching forwards again and BAE posted a 15.5% leap in operating profits from £1.3bn to £1.5bn, helped by the delivery of Typhoon fighter jets to Saudi Arabia.
BAE has secured more big US contracts lately. These include a deal worth up to $1bn to upgrade F-15 aircraft, a contract to support the US combat vehicle industrial base, and a five-year US Army contract for the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III and Family of Weapon Sights, with a potential value of $435m. The US Intelligence & Security sector accounts for 70% of BAE's of Cyber & Intelligence sales in 2015. All these dollar numbers will look even tastier when converted back into a weakened sterling. If, that is, Briton votes for Brexit.
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Harvey Jones 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.