Shares have made a perilous ascent of Everest
Stockmarkets have risen so high they have run out of oxygen, says professional investor Paul Stappard. But there are still exciting opportunities if you know where to look.
Each week, a professional investor tells MoneyWeek where he'd put his money now. This week:Paul Stappard, senior portfolio manager, Societe Generale Private Banking Hambros.
Some say that investing is like "climbing a wall of worry" but it can often seem more akin to attempting a perilous ascent of Everest. Now it seems like we're standing on the top, but without any oxygen: many markets have advanced for several years now, but without the oxygen of earnings growth. From a forward earnings perspective, major global equity markets look pricey.
This should have alarm bells ringing. But perhaps surprisingly, here at SGPB Hambros we have reacted by buying our portfolios are overweight equities following the recent volatility. Why? If one looks through the broader market and beyond the idiosyncrasies of particular sectors (finance and commodities in particular), there are still plenty of exciting investment propositions out there.
Take Wizz Air (LSE: WIZZ), for example. This ultra-low-cost airline started in 2004 and operates across 38 countries, all profitably, enjoying an average 38% market share across the routes it operates. Wizz plans to double in size over the next five years to exploit robust demand, low penetration levels (the potential market is much bigger than Wizz is currently serving), constrained capacity (it needs to grow to make the most of this) and limited competition.
It already achieves the highest EBITDA margins and ROCE across Europe and ranks fifth globally among airlines. With no long-term debt and a 40% liquidity ratio (a measure of the firm's ability to meet short-term debt obligations), the business is financially rock-solid. The shares trade at levels broadly in line with its low-cost peers, so there is great scope for the shares to rise. With its superior fundamentals and opportunities for growth, we believe this company is flying under investors' radars.
Another company set to capitalise on structural growth opportunities as well as the benefits of self-help initiatives is Jupiter Fund Management (LSE: JUP). This UK-based asset manager is enjoying particularly strong money flows, aided by a turnaround in its previously underperforming Merlin Funds family and a top quartile performance track record in its other major funds. Having recently exited the private client business, itis now a more focused operation with a more stable investor base.
It has a demonstrable track record of returning value to shareholders (it has net cash on the balance sheet and a targeted minimum 85% dividend payout ratio) and a solid growth profile, so we feel that the fact that the shares trade at a discount to its peers on 15 times forward earnings is unjustified. We expect the shares to rise significantly from here.
Following the late summer sell-off in global media names, we have been buying Sky (LSE: SKY). This pay-TV broadcaster is at the epicentre of industry change and consolidation. The eurozone has a penetration rate for non-terrestrial TV of a little over 30%. In North America, it's almost 90%, despite an average cost there of €70 compared to less than half of that in Europe. Recent moves to buy Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia have consolidated its position across this important region.
Concerns that Sky has been hurt by the loss of Champions League football rights are overdone the last quarter saw Sky's fastest ever subscriber growth. And its new Sky Go and Now TV offerings should largely offset potential threats from the likes of Netflix. The stock trades on 17 times 2016 earnings, which is appealing, given the growing dividend