5 Opportunities for the Week Ahead


LONDON -- Next week will again be dominated mainly by interim results from companies in the FTSE 100 and other London indexes.

And it's an interesting mix, including some shares I think look like clear bargains. Here are five that you might like to dig into before the results are released.

Michael Page (ISE: MPI.L) Monday brings interim results from Michael Page International, and while the recruitment specialist is interesting in its own right, the business offers a useful barometer of the economy in general.

Michael Page has already recovered its profits to some extent after they crashed to almost nothing in 2009. At its December 2011 year-end, the firm recorded a pre-tax profit of 86 million pounds. Meanwhile, July's trading update told us to expect rather flat profit, with exchange rates the only thing that could make a difference.

Full-year results are expected to be in line with market estimates, with the 380 pence shares on a forward price-to-earnings ratio of a stretching 25. This is not one I'd buy now, but a good mirror on business prospects to watch.

Standard Life (ISE: SL.L) Standard Life's interim figures are due on Tuesday, and they should be strong, with decent growth in earnings and dividends forecast for the full year. Standard Life, which offers life insurance, pensions, and savings products, is at less risk than the general insurers that cover sinking ships and tsunami damage and the like, but its profits have still been volatile, as they often are in the industry.

What I like about Standard Life is its dividend, which has been lifted steadily year on year. Forecasts for the year to December 2012 put the 256 pence shares on a relatively high P/E of 15, but there's a 5.7% dividend yield expected. And the forecast for 2013 is a P/E of 13 and a yield of 6.1%.

John Menzies (ISE: MNZS.L)
John Menzies
also reports its interims on Tuesday, and it's quite an unusual company. In fact, it's effectively two companies in one, operating separate distribution and aviation services businesses. That would normally make me cautious, as I prefer businesses that stick to doing what they do best. However, Menzies is good at both of its trades.

In fact, from the 2008 dip, we've seen steadily rising profits, and since dividends were resumed in 2010, those profits have been rising strongly. The shares currently stand at 623 pence, which puts them on a forward P/E of just 8.7, falling to 8.4 for 2013. Forecasts suggest a dividend yield of about 4%.

July's trading update told us that the group's full-year results were expected to be in line with expectations, so I think we can be fairly confident about next week's statement.

Anglo Pacific (ISE: APF.L) Anglo Pacific Group concludes a trio of interim results for Tuesday. I mentioned Anglo Pacific a month ago when I took a look at the mining sector. Since then, the shares have slipped back and then recovered to stand at 249 pence today.

Anglo Pacific owns mining resources and leases them out, taking royalties rather than facing all of the operating risks itself. I do think the share is worth considering as a way to profit from a commodities recovery that is looking increasingly likely.

The uncertainty, though, is due to current forecasts suggesting a tough 2012 and putting the shares on a forward P/E of 18, which is above the FTSE's long-term average of around 14. Earnings are expected to fall (and at the first-quarter stage, royalties were well down on the previous year). It looks like the current valuation is based on a longer-term view -- and there's nothing wrong with that.

Balfour Beatty (ISE: BBY.L) Infrastructure specialist Balfour Beatty will report interims on Wednesday, and we should hopefully see a boost this year and next from the construction industry that is showing signs of recovery.

Last month's trading update suggested a steady year in line with expectations, which should mean a decent rise in earnings and a lifting of the dividend.

With the shares at 290p, current forecasts are predicting a dividend yield of 5.1% this year and 5.4% next. Even though the shares have already gained 35% since their pre-Christmas low, they're still only on a lowly P/E of 8.1 for this year, falling to 7.7 on 2013 forecasts.

Some oilies, too
We also have a handful of oil companies reporting half-time results next week, with Petrofac on Monday and Dragon Oil and JKX Oil & Gas on Tuesday.

Indeed, if oil and gas is the sector for you, the latest Motley Fool report, "How To Unearth Great Oil & Gas Shares," should offer you some valuable help. Click here to get your personal copy while it's free.

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Alan Oscroft does not own any shares mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

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