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Company spotlight: Mears

FINANCE

MEARS is regularly followed by half a dozen analysts, who are all positive on the shares but the firm still feels the need to remind the market of major contract wins, including a recent £5 million-a-year deal with Brighton & Hove council that could last seven years.

This insecurity comes with the territory. Gone are the days when social housing was a nascent area that attracted new analysts to emerging companies. Big contractors from Balfour Beatty downwards muscled into this sector a while back and listed companies focusing solely in this area were widely perceived as being oversold.

That shares in Mears have continued to perform is testament to the group's record.

With two brokers on board - Investec recently joined Arbuthnot - Mears is clearly trying to move up a level.

Connaught has already done this and Mears may have to follow a similar route, but that would bring attendant pressures. Maintaining an M&E division that, while profitable, would only be seen as marginal in some areas of the City, could be problematic - so could the fleet services arm.

With the dividend going up - it was hiked a quarter at the interim stage - those questions could be assuaged for a while, but the City likes focus. That would mean sticking to social housing even if these attendant areas provide bigger margins and are part of the company's policy of expansion.

With a £1.1 billion order book, Mears still looks to have some mileage and is worth a 'hold' rating.