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Vodafone was tipped as a 'buy' in the Sunday Times' Inside the City column, with the mobile telecoms giant down 35.4% this year and unusually trading at a discount to its European peers. Concerns for investor have been the investment needed to buy 5G mobile airwave spectrum and plans to acquire European cable networks from Liberty Global. Then chief executive Vittorio Colao quit and new worries reared their heads about tougher Southern European competition.
October's auction of Italian spectrum saw Vodafone forced to splash out €2.4bn, more than the previous guidance for €1.2bn spending over the entire year. Analysts have since cast doubts on the company's generous dividend, with the shares yielding above 8%.
But now, with the shares at their lowest level since the summer of 2009, "the risks are more than priced in", the column said. Analysts at Citi feel there is no imminent risk to the dividend, while those at Redburn say current forecasts for full year underlying profits of €13.9bn, a 5% downgrade from €14.6bn previous expectations, is not too shabby.
Midas in the Mail on Sunday tipped Sabre Insurance Group. Sabre, which floated on London's main market last December, offers insurance through a network of more than 1,000 brokers and direct to customers through three brands Go Girl, Insure2Drive and Drive Smart. It has a bias towards the higher average premium segment, specialising in policies other insurers steer clear of, such as top of the range sports cars, teenage drivers and inner-city locations. Management believe Sabre's diversified book of business and a broad underwriting footprint offers an advantage through its proprietary pricing model and focus on data.
This focus means Sabre's average annual premium is £700, well above the average £400 seen in the rest of the motor market, while one annual premium was sold for £30,000 recently and each week there are dozens topping £4,000. By avoiding the busy industry traffic at the safer end of the market, where insurers chase new business on price comparison websites, while Sabre "does not chase business for the sake of increasing sales". Sabre's premiums offered reflect the risks that the group is taking and as it is often not facing much competition at its chosen area of the market, it can charge higher prices and still win business profitably.
A trading statement last week pointed to an expected full year combined ratio better than its mid-70%'s target, with strong organic capital generation supporting "the potential for an attractive full-year dividend". Analysts forecast £63.7m profits this year, rising to £67.6m next year, with an ordinary dividend of 14.6p for 2018, climbing to 15.3p in 2019, with the possibility of a special dividend.
3i Infrastructure is a risk worth taking right now, said Questor in the Sunday Telegraph, citing the "strong balance sheet" offering the "strength for further investment".
A trading update at the end of last month by the private equity style fund followed a period where it committed to invest €220m in lecoms operator Tampnet, also completing and syndicating half its initial investment in Attero, retaining a stake of around €100m.
Existing commitments of €45m funded renewable energy firm Valorem's development pipeline, La Santé prison in France and A9 motorway in the Netherlands as they move towards operational status.
Total income and non-income cash was £132m, with the company on track to deliver its full-year dividend target of 8.65p per share, with a cash balance of £126m at 27 September and an undrawn £283m bank facility.
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