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Are Any of These 5 FTSE 100 Shares a Buy? – BG Group plc (BG)

LONDON — I have recently been evaluating the investment cases for a multitude of FTSE 100 companies.

Although Britain’s foremost share index has risen 7.2% so far in 2013, I believe many London-listed stocks still have much further to run, while conversely others look overdue for a correction. So how do the following five stocks weigh up?

BG Group plcAntofagasta
The prospect of rising mining costs should prompt mining bugs to steer well clear of giant copper miner Antofagasta plc (LON:ANTO).

A confluence of lower mining grades, higher refining charges, rising power costs, plus rising general inflation all look set to hurt earnings over the long term.

Meanwhile, the Chilean miner expects total copper production, as well as gold and molybdenum ‘by-product’ output, to all head lower during 2013, further pressuring the bottom line.

City analysts expect an 8% drop in earnings per share in 2012 — results for which are due on Tuesday, 12 March — with meagre growth of 2% in 2013 set to be followed by a 4% decline for 2014. The possibility of fresh macroeconomic jitters and the subsequent effect on commodity prices could put even these modest numbers to the sword.

Despite this poor earnings outlook, Antofagasta still trades on a relatively lofty earnings P/E ratio. A reading of 13.5 for last year is forecast to fall to 13.1 in 2013 before rising to 13.6 next year, further undermining the investment case in my opinion.

BG Group plc (LON:BG)
Despite recent share-price pressure, I believe BG Group looks a decent bet to rise again as its excellent portfolio of assets step up production in the near term.

Project delays in Brazil and the U.K., fears surrounding the company’s gas reserves in Egypt, as well as a scaling back of shale gas operations in the U.S., have caused BG Group to cut production expectations until 2015 in recent months.

Still, under the guidance of industry expert Chris Finlayson, the firm is well placed to reap the potential of its world-class assets.

Earnings per share are expected to leap 23% higher during 2014 and a further 20% in 2015, according to broker Canaccord Genuity, as output at Brazil’s Sapinhoá field and the Queensland Curtis LNG project in Australia contribute materially this year and next.

Allied with a consequent P/E ratio drop — to an expected 14.2 for 2013, and 11.5 and 9.6 for 2014 and 2015 respectively — I think BG Group offers potentially explosive returns in coming years.

Croda International Plc (LON:CRDA)
I believe chemicals giant Croda International‘s stellar pricing power and formidable barriers to entry will keep it on an upward keel regardless of fresh weakness in the global financial environment.

The company is a top-level producer of high-value chemical additives to the personal care market, particularly in the manufacturing of green and niche products. Croda is also increasing its presence across the globe to mitigate weakness in the traditional stronghold of Europe.

As well, a particularly healthy balance sheet — helped in no small part by an aggressive commitment to margin improvement — should help to fund ongoing geographical expansion and provide fresh capital for R&D to help the firm stay ahead of the pack.

City brokers estimate earnings per share to trickle 3% higher in 2012, before gathering pace thereafter when growth of 9% and 10% is projected in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Last year’s results are due on Tuesday, 26 February.

Croda does not come cheap, with a P/E ratio of 18.4 and 16.7 forecast for this year and next. But I think this premium is justified given its steady growth record and quality of its businesses.

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