Should I Invest in Serco Group?


LONDON -- To me, capital growth and dividend income are equally important. Together, they provide the total return from any share investment and, as you might expect, my aim is to invest in companies that can beat the total return delivered by the wider market.

To put that aim into perspective, the FTSE 100 has provided investors with a total return of around 3% per year since Jan. 2008.

Quality and value
If my investments are to outperform, I need to back companies that score well on several quality indicators and buy at prices that offer decent value.

So this series aims to identify appealing FTSE 100 investment opportunities and today I'm looking at Serco Group , which is a service company serving the public and private sectors. With the shares at 623 pence, Serco's market cap. is 3,111 million pounds.

This table summarizes the firm's recent financial record:

Year to December






Revenue (million pounds)






Net cash from operations (million pounds)






Adjusted earnings per share

22.2 pence

29.53 pence

34.69 pence

39.69 pence

42.55 pence

Dividend per share

5 pence

6.25 pence

7.35 pence

8.4 pence

10.1 pence

Serco is a service and outsourcing company with around 120,000 employees providing services to government and private clients in more than 30 countries. 2012 was a good year, generating some 5.8 billion pounds in contract wins and the order book now stands at around 19.1billion pounds.

The firm's operations are diverse and this year's wins include things such as ferry services to the Northern Isles in Scotland, U.K., asylum applicant accommodation and transport services, and U.S. Army base closure support in Afghanistan

Last year, around 56% of revenue came from the U.K., 14% from the U.S., 17% from Europe, and 13% from other countries. If Serco can keep executing the contracts it wins profitably, there's every reason to be optimistic about the total-return potential available to investors.

Serco's total-return potential
Let's examine five indicators to help judge the quality of the company's total-return potential:

1. Dividend cover: adjusted earnings covered last year's dividend just over four times. 5/5

2. Borrowings: net gearing around 52% with net debt about 1.9 times earnings. 3/5

3. Growth: revenue, earnings, and cash flow have all been trending up. 5/5

4. Price to earnings: a forward 13 takes full account of growth and yield expectations. 3/5

5. Outlook: good recent trading and a positive outlook. 5/5

Overall, I score Serco 21 out of 25, which encourages me to believe the firm has potential to outpace the wider market's total return going forward.

Foolish summary
Robust dividend cover, under-control debt, a convincing growth pedigree, and an encouraging outlook all combine to make Serco look attractive at the current fair valuation. That leads me to believe that Serco has potential to make a decent investment if bought on share-price dips.

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Kevin Godbold does not own shares in Serco Group. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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