Our stocks writer has spotted some lesser lights leading the way in the market today.
Companies focused on thermal energy and road safety barriers were the unlikely stars of the London market today after shares in highly regarded Spirax-Sarco Engineering (LSE:SPX) and Hill & Smith Holdings (LSE:HILS) moved deeper into record territory.
Cheltenham-based Spirax added another 2% and is now worth well over £11 billion after impressive half-year results showed why it continues to command such a lofty premium in the FTSE 100 index.
The 130-year old business, whose steam and thermal solutions help to heat hospitals, produce food on an industrial scale or sterilise pharmaceutical equipment, has seen demand surge as customers look to improve efficiency or meet sustainability targets.
Pre-tax profits today rose 41% to £150 million for the first six months of 2021, with the company's improved full-year outlook helping shares to a fresh record above 15,500p.
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Industrial production is expected to be 8% to 9% this year, but Spirax-Sarco expects all its divisions to outperform this global rate, with its Watson-Marlow fluid technologies business on track for 55% growth this year due to its support for Covid-19 vaccines.
Despite the run for shares from 11,500p since the start of this year, Peel Hunt reckons the stock is worth holding on to after the broker adjusted its price target to 15,000p.
Hill & Smith shares rose 5% to 1,744p after half-year revenues and profits came in better than 2020 and 2019 levels, highlighting the favourable backdrop for infrastructure spending in the UK and US.
Peel Hunt has a target price of 1,950p, while Numis Securities increased its estimate by 200p to 2,000p following today's results.
Numis added: “The group has delivered a strong performance in H1, with sales and margins comfortably ahead of our expectations.”
Hill & Smith was only beaten at the top of the FTSE 250 index risers board by corporate merchandise firm 4imprint (LSE:FOUR), which jumped 13% after resuming dividend payments as a mark of the recent recovery in its performance.
Manchester-based 4imprint, whose products range from basic giveaways such as pens and drinkware through to embroidered apparel, said its primary US market was showing significant momentum, with total order intake in July up an average of 12% over 2019 levels.
Its shares were trading at 3,500p in late 2019, only to slide to 1,320p after the pandemic led to the cancellation of corporate events and trade shows.
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The company has rethought its corporate merchandise to more focus on helping clients improve team motivation through items such as stainless steel vacuum mugs or wireless earbuds, and on working from home trends.
Shares are now at 3,230p after today's dividend-inspired surge but analysts at WH Ireland think there's potential to return to 3,500p based on the company achieving its $1 billion revenues target as soon as 2023.
The road safety, utilities and galvanising specialist said it expects underlying profits for 2021 to be at the top end of City forecasts, despite headwinds in raw material cost inflation and labour shortages.
It is encouraged by potential opportunities around Joe Biden's infrastructure bill in the US and the UK government's commitment to increased levels of funding for road investment projects.
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