Shares of FTSE 100 giant Intertek (LSE: ITRK) are up over 4% in early trading, after the quality assurance firm posted an 8.8% year-on-year rise in constant currency revenue and 10.5% jump in operating profits. With analysts penciling in at least another two years of very good earnings growth, is this one share not to miss?
Perhaps, but there are some major questions that need to be answered first. Primary amongst these is the minuscule 0.1% organic revenue growth reported during the year. This very low level of like-for-like sales increases left acquisitions the main driver of topline growth. If Intertek is to live up to the high expectations the market has for it management will need to find a way to return legacy assets to a decent level of growth.
Another worry is the company's dependence on the health of the global economy and trade and resource sectors in particular. A little more than 40% of the company's overall sales are tied to these two sectors, both of which are under increasing pressure in the current political and economic environment.
However management is working to lessen this dependence by actively acquiring firms in the higher-margin, faster-growing product sector. This segment provides quality control services for everything from shoes to appliances and 'Internet of Things' software. The company's insistence on bulking-up its offerings in this sector makes sense, as it provides 73% of operating profit despite only bringing in 57% of overall revenue, which shows just how much higher its margins are than the rest of the group.
Today's results are a big positive for Intertek and with its shares trading at just 20 times forecast 2017 earnings while offering solid growth prospects the company is one to watch.
A healthy market
If 20 times forward earnings it a little pricey for your tastes, one option may be home builder Persimmon (LSE: PSN), whose shares trade at just 10 times forward earnings. Of course there's a good reason for this -- analysts are predicting that we're at, or very near ,the top of the highly cyclical housing market.
But Persimmon isn't an over-leveraged developer, building willy-nilly like many were before the financial crisis. Rather the company had over £913m in cash on hand at the end of 2016 and has already booked £1.89bn worth of forward sales due to continued imbalance in the domestic demand/supply curve for housing.
This situation shows no signs of letting up either, as builders such as Persimmon have kept new home completions growing at a very low pace. In 2016 the company finished 15,171 homes, only 599 more than in 2015. The fact that the average price for its homes also rose by 3.8% is encouraging as to the health of the market.
The company's disciplined management team has also kept a laser like focus on costs and improved operating margins from 21.9% to 24.8% year-on-year with H2 margins even higher. While the rally in the housing market has continued for several years nothing in Persimmon's results suggest its due for an imminent crash.
With the company's shares trading at a bargain price and offering a well covered dividend yielding 5.7% there's plenty to like here for risk-hungry investors.
Ian Pierce has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Intertek. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.