Mike Holmans August 26, 2009

Investing in England

The Holmans Consulting Group (HCG) presents another market survey, this time covering leading English stocks. Investors are advised that this is a highly speculative market in which there is the potential for both substantial gain and considerable loss: market sentiment is extremely volatile, leading to regular outbreaks of panic buying and selling which distort the market considerably.

Strauss Hold. Has achieved outstanding results since adding a management services division, both in management itself but also in the batting, which is now one of the world's leading suppliers of opening products. Trading conditions in South Africa will be extremely challenging and dividends may well fall back in the short term, but the medium-term outlook is bright.

Cook Sell. Impressive when a newcomer, performance has declined significantly over the last twelve months as the competition have ruthlessly exploited technical defects which have not been fixed despite bullish reports from the research labs. Up-and-coming firms such as Denly of Kent or Carberry of Hampshire could well displace Cook in the short term, although the underlying strength of the company makes recovery probable.

Bopara Sell. Many observers were very surprised at the appalling performance in the most recent trading period after outstanding success in some Caribbean ventures. HCG believes that the stock will eventually have considerable value but it will take time for markets to regain confidence in it.

Bell Weak sell. While famed for its elegant products for the luxury market, consumers have long been demanding an extension into the steel grinder field. The product unveiled at Oval09 goes some way to allaying concerns but a more substantial version needs to be brought to market soon. HCG reiterates its belief that Joyce of Sussex would be a more appropriate vehicle but recognises that long-standing ties between Bell and central government are likely to see the relationship continue for some while.

Pietersen Hold. It is expected that once refurbishment has been completed this powerhouse company will resume high levels of production.

Collingwood Sell. By holding firm at the beginning of the reporting period, Collingwood averted a complete meltdown in the market, but subsequent performance was extremely disappointing. The emergence of strong competition makes its hold on market share very precarious.

Trott Await developments. Given that the markets were so febrile that many brokers fell for a PR offensive from the venerable firm of Ramprakash, it is not surprising that the IPO was received with suspicion. Those who took up the offer made huge immediate profits, but there is no guarantee that these will be maintained. HCG believes this stock now to be massively over-priced and that better value will be obtainable when market fever subsides.

Prior Buy. The perky batting division had some good returns, although doubts remain about its ability to cope with crisis conditions, but heavy investment in training for the wicketkeeping division has resulted in products of considerably higher quality, leading HCG to believe that its position is unchallengeable.

Flintoff has regrettably ceased trading.

Broad Take profits. Freddy's medical bankruptcy opens up a market gap for a multi-purpose agency which many analysts hope Broad will fill. While HCG predicts a profitable long-term future, Broad is currently trading at a price which will not be justified by asset values without another two years of steady growth and refinement of the product range.

Swann Hold. Like several other English bowling firms, Swann has some excellent specialist products but is not well-equipped to deal with unfavourable trading conditions, though it should be noted that considerable value is also derived from the dynamic batting subsidiary.

Anderson Weak buy. Now the world's leading producer of swing goods, but much more work is needed on the general-purpose bowling products, which have very basic functionality and contribute very little to sales revenue. The batting company is gaining respect despite the first complete failure of a project in the final trading week; HCG believes that the popular Nightwatchman range has an outside possibility of three-figure returns if market conditions are particularly favourable. Unusually for a fast bowling group, they also have a very high-quality fielding division.

Harmison Sell. Post-Freddy's, Harmy's is the only recognised supplier of Ultrabounce items left but quality control is poor and too many are defective. There are strong rumours that the company will withdraw from the market entirely unless government is prepared to offer contract guarantees but there seems to be little incentive for government to do so.

Onions Hold. This recent market entrant has so far performed satisfactorily. Unexpected celebrity endorsement from Lily Allen will assist the PR efforts.

Panesar Sell. The Cardiff Expo saw the unexpected introduction of an excellent batting product, but the main bowling line has fallen away badly. Even in the domestic market, returns have been far below expectations and the future looks bleak for this popular enterprise. HCG would instead draw investors' attention to Rashid of Bradford, which has been demonstrating three-figure batting returns concurrently with bowling that reaches the 5W standard.

For the moment, the general trends in this sector remain very unclear. Investors are urged to be cool in their judgements and not allow themselves to be swept away on one of the market's frequent bouts of insanity. HCG accepts no liability whatsoever for investment decisions taken by readers of this survey and strongly urges that investors take professional advice, preferably from a psychiatrist.