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The 2016 All-Europe Research Team: France, No. 1: Ben Spruntulis & team

The Exane BNP Paribas group reporting on French equities extends its winning streak to a seventh year

Ben Spruntulis
& team
Exane BNP Paribas
First-Place Appearances: 9

Total Appearances: 22

Team Debut: 1995

The Exane BNP Paribas group reporting on French equities extends its winning streak to a seventh year; it’s been under the guidance of Ben Spruntulis since late in 2014. Headquartered in Paris, the 45-strong troupe “consistently does impressive work and isn’t afraid to express out-of-consensus views,” one admirer observes. Another money manager adds that the analysts’ “sector teams provide coverage that’s quite broad and in-depth — especially for insurance, media, beverages and luxury goods — and their client service is the best.” One preferred name in their portfolio of 142 companies is Trigano, which makes recreational vehicles, such as mobile homes and motor caravans, and industrial trailers. The Paris-based company has weathered Europe’s economic downturn with “a strong balance sheet and improved competitive positioning,” Spruntulis says, just as demand for its wares is increasing. Specifically, management’s program of growth through acquisitions has produced dominant market presence in Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and U.K., situating the manufacturer to benefit “disproportionately” from a market turnaround, he notes. Trigano “is in a sweet spot,” the 36-year-old explains, “with the potential to hike prices where competition has vanished.” Trading at 11.8 times earnings at the outset of this year, he notes, the stock is undervalued “for a company we view to be the undisputed leader.” The analysts assign Trigano a price target of €57; its stock closed at €55.58 in mid-January. Another of their favorite French companies is Veolia Environnement. A transnational player with headquarters in the capital city, Veolia manages water utilities, waste disposal and energy services for municipal governments. It is well poised to meet the “global need for enhanced environmental infrastructure,” reports Spruntulis. The executive team’s restructuring and cost-cutting efforts should enable its shares “to deliver above-average earnings growth” — surpassing 15 percent — through 2018, he advises, even as its new dividend policy offers a roughly 4 percent yield over the next three years. He and his associates project that Veolia’s fundamentals support a stock price of €25, which represents a 21.4 percent premium to the trading value in mid-January.

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