Welcome to HL's reimagined News, Insights and Research experience. Find out more

Share research

Compass - growth across the board, guidance raised

Compass has reported underlying first-half revenue of £15.8bn, with organic growth of 24.7%.

No recommendation - No news or research item is a personal recommendation to deal. All investments can fall as well as rise in value so you could get back less than you invest.

Prices delayed by at least 15 minutes

This article is more than 6 months old

It was correct at the time of publishing. Our views and any references to tax, investment, and pension rules may have changed since then.

Compass has reported underlying first-half revenue of £15.8bn, with organic growth of 24.7%. There was growth across all regions, Europe of particular note, and net new business of 5.2%.

Underlying operating profit rose 41.1% to £1.1bn, with margins improving from 5.8% to 6.6%. Performance was driven mainly by top-line growth and pricing actions to offset inflation.

Underlying Free cash flow was up 63.9% to £590m, of which £202m was put towards acquisitions. Net debt was £3.2bn at the period end.

Guidance for 2023 has been raised. Operating profit growth, ignoring exchange rates, is now expected towards 30%, up from the previous guidance of over 20%. That's expected to come through organic revenue growth of 18% and operating margins of 6.7-6.8%.

The Board has approved an interim dividend of 15.0p per share and has announced a new £750m buyback following the completion of the previous £250m buyback that was completed in March.

The shares rose 1.5% in early trading.

View the latest Compass share price and how to deal

Our view

Compass is a catering supplier. It feeds hungry mouths everywhere from stadiums to university halls and offices. It's a natural beneficiary of companies looking to outsource their food offerings (a classic move when economic conditions get tough). As more people return to offices, Compass is reaping rewards there too.

Last we heard, Compass estimates only around half of its target market currently outsource their food preparation, and the group commands about 10% of the £250bn food services business. That suggests there's a big slice of pie still up for grabs. And with over half of total revenue coming from non-cyclical sectors, Compass has another layer of shelter against challenging economic conditions.

Compass has been keen to point out that it still offers good value against the high street, suggesting that high inflation was helping to increase new business. The downside of inflation of course is the impact on margins.

Compass has been pulling all the levers it can to mitigate inflation. As well as price increases, menu management and a focus on where it buys its ingredients and equipment are some of the tools it has in its armoury. We're pleased to see continued progress, and the upgraded full-year margin guidance is a testament to the work behind the scenes to manage costs and price hikes.

Debt levels are within the Group's target range, but have been rising in absolute terms, but have come down relative to the improving business performance. There's a decent chunk of debt due to mature next year, so that'll either be a burden on cash or need to be rolled over at higher rates. Earlier in the year, Compass guided that net interest costs are likely to jump substantially in the current financial year because of higher average debt levels and interest rates.

Nonetheless, strong cash flows currently cover the dividend and pave the way for a £750m extension to the buyback. Given the improvement in profitability, we're comfortable with this level of cash returns to shareholders. As ever there are no guarantees.

Overall, we think Compass is an attractive business, with external conditions creating something of a perfect storm to boost demand for outsourcing. The Group's valuation is a touch ahead of the long-term average. That's fair if things go to plan, but any wobbles on margin recovery will likely put the valuation under pressure.

Compass key facts

All ratios are sourced from Refinitiv. Please remember yields are variable and not a reliable indicator of future income. Keep in mind key figures shouldn't be looked at on their own - it's important to understand the big picture.

This article is original Hargreaves Lansdown content, published by Hargreaves Lansdown. It was correct as at the date of publication, and our views may have changed since then. Unless otherwise stated estimates, including prospective yields, are a consensus of analyst forecasts provided by Refinitiv. These estimates are not a reliable indicator of future performance. Yields are variable and not guaranteed. Investments rise and fall in value so investors could make a loss.

This article is not advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any investment. No view is given on the present or future value or price of any investment, and investors should form their own view on any proposed investment. This article has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is considered a marketing communication. Non-independent research is not subject to FCA rules prohibiting dealing ahead of research, however HL has put controls in place (including dealing restrictions, physical and information barriers) to manage potential conflicts of interest presented by such dealing. Please see our full non-independent research disclosure for more information.

Latest from Share research
Weekly newsletter
Sign up for editors choice. The week's top investment stories, free in your inbox every Saturday.
Written by
Matt Britzman
Equity Analyst

Matt is an Equity Analyst on the share research team, providing up-to-date research and analysis on individual companies and wider sectors.

Our content review process
The aim of Hargreaves Lansdown's financial content review process is to ensure accuracy, clarity, and comprehensiveness of all published materials
Article history
Published: 10th May 2023