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Challenger bank, Metro, has been in free fall this week after starting its trading as an investor’s dream in 2016. The latest catastrophe to hit Metro is its decision to pull out of a £200m bond sale, which it needed to comply with EU MREL regulations. Metro’s share price fell by 30%, taking it to 166p at the time of writing – a whopping 95% fall since the beginning of 2018. Metro has been hit by problems – an accounting error earlier this year highlighted the need for an extra £350m in funding for the bank and a regulatory probe back in August led to a share price crash. So, with the challenger bank bottomed out, is it a good time to take a risk? Metro and its advisers are putting a brave face on the bond sale fall-through, stating that better Quarter 3 results and some resolution to Brexit could bring it back from the brink. However, many analysts think the banks previous highs could be out of reach – in a post credit crunch world it might be unrealistic for small fish like Metro to compete in a big pond.
Royal Mail’s ongoing dispute with its workers has wreaked havoc on mail deliveries and share prices alike. The Communication Workers Union, which represents the majority of Royal Mail’s workforce have started balloting staff about whether to strike during the holiday season. Although Royal Mail struck a new deal with its workers on pay and pensions in March, leadership changes and ambitious targets have still caused conflict. Consequently, shares have slumped to 210.8 at the time of writing and in its last financial year to the end of March, the mail delivery firm have seen profits dwindle by 30% to £398 mn. So, is it worth taking a punt on the current slump? Leading analysts, Liberium, think not – they have downgraded Royal Mail from ‘hold’ to ‘sell’, cutting its target price from 220p to 185p. Many others agree, feeling that modern society’s shift from letters to emails, and a fall in valuation that leaves the price down 16% on a year-to-date basis, is going to make Royal Mail’s new strategy unachievable.
It was a bad week for school books firm, Pearson, who saw 19% fall off its share price after a profit warning on Thursday. Pearson, which has been making steady gains over the past two years, fell to 721.20p at the time of writing. The educational publisher had previously issued guidance of £590m – £640m for full-year adjusted operating profit but now says thanks to a weak third quarter it will be around the bottom of that range. Chief Executive, John Fallon, has pinpointed the issue as a slump in sales for US higher education courseware, which means the higher education division will fall by between 8 and 12 per cent. He has blamed the weak sales on students shifting towards online study resources much more quickly than expected. So, is it worth buying Pearson while prices are down? Much will depend on whether Pearson can deploy its new technology platform quickly and effectively, to lure students back. Some analysts have reaffirmed their ‘sell’ rating stating the kind of digital transformation that the publisher needs ‘does not happen overnight. Others were cautiously optimistic, sticking with hold, and pointing out that an economic downturn often leads to greater demand for courseware.
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