4 Blue Chips To Drive The FTSE Higher

Published in Investing on 12 December 2012

If re-rated by the market, these cheap blue chips will have a dramatic impact on the FTSE 100.

The FTSE 100 (UKX) is a market-cap weighted index. This means that the price changes of large companies such as Vodafone (LSE: VOD) and Royal Dutch Shell (LSE: RDSB) have a bigger effect than smaller blue chips such as G4S or Pennon.

In the coming year, this could have a huge impact on the blue-chip index. That's because, in my opinion, four of the FTSE 100's five largest companies are very cheap right now. Apart from the depths of bear markets, I cannot recall a time when so many of the UK's largest companies have all been so attractively priced at the same time.

CompanyPrice (p)P/E (forecast)Yield (forecast, %)Market cap (£m)
Royal Dutch Shell2,1808.35136,789
HSBC (LSE: HSBA)64511.34.3118,610
BP (LSE: BP) (NYSE: BP.US)4287.25.581,090
Vodafone16210.46.179,400

Data from Stockopedia.

1) Royal Dutch Shell (Shell)

Shares in Shell currently trade within a few percent of their low for the year.

In the last 12 months, shares in Shell have fallen 7.5%. That's almost a mirror of the FTSE 100's performance: the FTSE has increased 7.2% in the same period.

Although Shell's share price has disappointed, its yield is far higher than average. Shell is expected to yield 5.0% for 2012, rising to 5.1% in 2013.

On a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 8.3 times expected earnings for the year, the shares are cheaper than most FTSE 100 stocks. The expected growth in 2013 makes the shares look even more attractive. Consensus is for the company to make earnings per share (EPS) of $4.45 in 2013. At today's price, that equates to a 2013 P/E of just 7.9.

2) BP

For the last two years, investors analysing BP have been preoccupied with two issues: the Gulf of Mexico disaster and the company's joint-venture in Russia.

The 2010 Macondo disaster in the Gulf of Mexico cost 11 men their lives; it also cost BP billions of pounds.

These problems were further compounded by disputes between BP and its partners in the TNK-BP joint-venture in Russia. In recent years, Russia has become a key part of BP's operations.

BP is near to closing the chapter on these massively damaging incidents. Only a few more cases remain in relation to the Gulf spill. In October, BP announced it had resolved the dispute with its Russian partners and entered an agreement with Russian state oil company Rosneft.

BP is expected to pay $0.38 of dividends for 2012 -- that's a 35.2% increase on the 2011 payout. The dividend is forecast to rise another 10.9% in 2013.

If BP can restore dividends to the level they were at before the Macondo disaster, investors buying now would get an 8.3% yield.

3) HSBC

HSBC hit the news this week on receipt of a $1.9bn fine for money-laundering offences. That was more than the market expected. Yet it didn't stop the shares hitting a new high.

Shares in HSBC are currently trading at their highest since May 2011. However, it is possible that the shares are still cheap.

At the current level, HSBC trades on a forward P/E of 11.3. That's a considerable discount to the market average. Furthermore, significant earnings growth is expected in 2013. Analysts expect that next year's EPS will be 12.4% ahead of what the bank will make in 2012.

HSBC also pays a chunky dividend. At today's price, the shares are expected to yield 4.3% this year, rising to 4.7% for 2013.

4) Vodafone

Vodafone shares currently trade within a few pennies of their low for the year. The recent interim results for the company revealed large eurozone writedowns. While the shareholder dividend was increased, it was announced that there would be no special dividend payment this year. Instead, Vodafone announced a planned £1.5bn share buyback.

This annoyed some investors on our discussion boards. Shareholders were unhappy that Vodafone was using cash to buy back shares rather than increase its dividend.

I'm more sanguine. First, Vodafone already pays a large dividend that has been increasing. Second, buying back shares means that Vodafone can increase its per share dividend in future without having to increase the cost of the dividend (as fewer shares will be in issue). I'm happy to take an increased dividend and let Vodafone to mop up any loose stock, especially as this has the effect of increasing my holding in the company.

There is also the possibility that the share buyback will lead to a sharp, short-term rise in Vodafone's share price.

If you are interested in building a portfolio of high-income dividend stocks then take a look at what Neil Woodford has been buying. Mr Woodford is one of the UK's super-investors. The free Motley Fool report "8 Shares Held By Britain's Super Investor" reveals the modus operandi of a top stock picker. Click here to start reading today.

> David owns shares in Vodafone but none of the other companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has recommended shares in Vodafone.

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