Ashtead shares in red despite reported profit growth

Ashtead shares in red despite reported profit growth

Shareholders of Ashtead Group plc (LON: AHT) have seen their shares drop on Monday morning despite a relatively positive update.

Ashtead Group plc is a British industrial equipment rental company formerly based in Leatherhead, Surrey, but which has since moved to new offices in the City of London.

Shares of Ashtead dropped 7.1% to 2,198p. 10/12/19 10:25BST.

Ashtead experienced a similar dip in their profits in September, when the firm saw their shares dip despite a relatively stable performance.

In September, the FTSE100  listed firm saw revenue bounced 17% on a year-on-year basis fro the first half, to £1.27 billion, led by a 16% jump in rental revenue.

This led a growth of 14% to an EBITDA of £626.6 million, and an on-year rise of 11% in operating profit, up to £358.3 million.

In this morning’s update, the firm posted a rise in interim profit as strong US and Canadian growth pushed revenue higher despite a weaker UK performance.

For the six months ended October 31, the equipment rental firm posted a £660.2 million pretax profit, 8.2% higher than its £610.0 million profit the year before.

This improvement came from rental revenue, which was up 18% to £2.45 billion from £2.07 billion, lifting group revenue 19% to £2.68 billion from £2.25 billion.

According to Ashtead, its half-year revenue performance reflects “strong growth in the US and Canadian markets”. However, investment in its Canadian business and “weakness in the UK” meant a more modest performance in terms of profit.

Chief Executive Brendan Horgan said: “Our North American end markets remain strong and we continue to execute well on our strategy of organic growth supplemented by targeted bolt-on acquisitions. In contrast, the UK market remains challenging and we are therefore refocusing A-Plant on leveraging its platform to deliver long-term sustainable results while generating strong cash flow.”

Shareholders should have been appeased, as Ashtead increased its interim dividend by 10% to 7.15p per share from 6.5p per share the year prior.

Horgan said: “Our business continues to perform well in supportive North American end markets, while we have taken decisive strategic action to refocus our UK business in the challenging market conditions. Thus, except for the UK and a currency headwind, we expect results to be in line with our expectations and the board continues to look to the medium term with confidence.”

Competitors have seen their shares just as volatile, in a market which has been hit by Brexit slumps.

At the end of November, CRH saw their shares rally as the firm gave shareholders a bullish third quarter update.

The firm reported reported a 9% rise in third quarter profit on a like-for-like basis, and also alluded to sustained demand and pricing which it expects to continue in 2020.

Home building firms, such as Berkeley who Ashtead may supply to have also experienced fluctuations.

On Friday, Berkeley reported that pre tax profit fell 31% to 276.7 million pounds ($355.01 million) for the six months ended Oct. 31.

Additionally, Gleeson saw their shares in red despite a confident outlook to shareholders, which further adds to the inconsistent nature of the home building market.

Certainly, shareholders should remain optimistic about the update from Ashtead. As the Election creeps up on voters, it seems that firms can then make a concrete recovery plan to battle business slumps once more clarity is given.