Broker spotlight - British Land, Hammerson, Unilever, Dixons Carphone and WH Smith


Heavyweight broker Deutsche opens the door on the European property  space today and upgrades the sector on the back of expected launch of QE tomorrow by the ECB.

It expects the stimulus measures to benefit the quoted property sector through a depreciation in the euro currency, which it belives will prompt property investment across the region.

It believes it will tempt non-eurozone buyers to acquire properties that have become cheaper in their own currencies.

It moves a number of stocks to 'buy' from 'hold' including Kennedy Wilson (LON:KWE) and Merlin Property, which remain its 'top picks'. 

Hammerson (LON:HMSO) has its price target lifted to 750p from 520p previously.

Also, British Land (LON:BLND) is upgraded to 'buy' from 'sell' and the target price hiked to 930p from 600p.

Meanwhile, the supertanker that is consumer goods giant Unilever (LON:ULVR) keeps on sailing, reckons the same broker.

Deutsche has upgraded the price target handsomely on the stock to 2,950p from 2,750p following 2014 results.

It repeats a 'buy' stance and analyst Harold Thompson notes although the weakness in emerging markets was plain for all to see, growth should now build through 2015, mainly thanks to improving volume outlook in this area.

"Growth, albeit slow in a historical context, was ahead of market growth in value and volumes. 

"Despite significant FX headwinds, marketing spend was sustained and costs reduced such that margins rose an impressive 40bp, he said.

The firm told investors yesterday that sales fell 2.7% to €48.4bn ($56.1bn; £37.1bn).

On the flip side, Canaccord has turned bearish on stationer and High Street favourite WH Smith (LON:SMWH), moving it to 'hold' from 'buy' on valuation grounds.

A Christmas trading update for the 20 weeks to Jan 17 showed group sales were down 1% but the main driver of projected profit growth is in the travel division and the broker said it expects no changes to consensus headline PBT forecasts for then group of around £120m to £121m at this stage. 

"In the absence of PBT upgrades today, we struggle to justify a higher valuation at this time, and therefore are moving our recommendation from Buy to HOLD, said Canaccord.

Meanwhile, Investec has lifted the price target on retailer and mega merger Dixons Carphone (LON:DC) by 35p to 500p on the back of the Christmas trading statement.

Black Friday promotions and deals on Boxing Day boosted takings for the electrical goods retailer, which posted a 7% jump in like-for-like sales in the nine weeks to 3 January.

Rating the stock 'buy', Investec said: "Trading for 9 weeks to 3rd January was strong, highlighting the strength of Dixons’ multi-channel proposition within the UK electricals market as well as ongoing market share benefits at Carphone Warehouse (CPW), benefitting from Phones 4 U’s exit as well as new product launches (iPhone 6)."

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