Diversified financial services provider FlexiGroup is among the top investment opportunities for 2013, according to a comprehensive survey of leading equity analysts and fund managers. FlexiGroup (FXL), a provider of leasing, vendor finance programs and payment solutions, among other things, recently reported a half-year net profit after tax of $32.6 million for the six months to December 31, 2012. Net profit was up 16 per cent on last year’s corresponding period. Peter Russell, of Russell Research, says FlexiGroup’s share price has almost doubled in the past 12 months. He suggests accumulating the stock, saying it offers a bright outlook. ATI Asset Management’s head of research David Liu says FlexiGroup has a solid track record of integrating acquisitions that grow earnings and revenue streams. “Extracting synergies from acquisitions reduces operating costs,” he says. Liu says the FlexiGroup’s growth profile is supported by diversifying into the SME (small-to-mid size enterprises) sector. “It improves the quality of the company’s order book,” Liu says. “It’s no longer totally reliant on the retail sector.” Liu says a major risk to company performance is more stringent consumer laws, while, in the survey, another analyst pointed to the risk of increasing levels of competition given reasonably low barriers to entry. The two-month survey, undertaken by leading financial research firm East Coles in late 2012, involved 40 funds management firms and broking houses, including AMP, BT, Citi, Credit Suisse, Greencape, IFM and UBS. Nick Coles, a director of East Coles, says the survey’s findings are based on interviews and voting in 21 corporate performance categories, including earnings quality, growth prospects, risk management, disclosure and operational management. “The most prominent fund managers and brokers, overseeing hundreds of billions of dollars in equity investments, rated the stocks in the survey,” Coles says. “The data sample was very strong.” Coles says this list reveals the best stocks in the survey’s “investment desirability category” for companies with a market capitalisation placing them between 100 and 200 on the ASX. Market experts appraise other top prospects for 2013, which include: INVOCARE (IVC) Liu says InvoCare is the dominant player in the funeral industry. An ageing population provides IVC with strong defensive characteristics. Good organic growth is complemented by its acquisition strategy. Mike Mangan, of 2MG Asset Management, says InvoCare is a well-managed company, with strong market positions in a growth industry. He says it indexes fees to inflation “plus a bit”. While the stock appeals, Mangan says it isn’t cheap, trading on a multiple above 20 times earnings. FLIGHT CENTRE (FLT) Liu says this traditional bricks and mortar travel agent chain has adapted to structural change driven by growing online usage. “This business has successfully diversified and expanded its operations offshore and into the wholesale market,” he says. “Management has continued to beat market expectations over a long period of time.” Mangan says Flight Centre continues to benefit from a strong Aussie dollar, with Australians taking advantage of cheaper overseas travel. It offers a strong balance sheet and cash component. He says the risk is a falling Australian dollar. MERMAID MARINE AUSTRALIA (MRM) Massive LNG construction on Australia’s west coast drives this vessels operator. For full year 2012, the company reported a 33.3 per cent increase in revenue to $380.4 million and an 18.3 per cent increase in net profit after tax to $51 million. Liu says MRM is leveraged to the high growth oil and gas sectors, and exhibits defensive characteristics via supply bases in Dampier and Broome. SUPER RETAIL GROUP (SUL) The group comprises eight brands, including BCF (Boating, Camping, Fishing), Ray’s Outdoors, Rebel and Supercheap Auto. Liu says its growth profile is superior to competitors in the sector. “Stable and long-standing management continue to meet market expectations in terms of financial guidance,” he says. Mangan says SUL’s share price has almost doubled in the past year, while other major retail stocks have either fallen or traded sideways. The risk is a major downturn in the retail sector. The shares were trading at $12.14 on March 7, 2013. TPG TELECOM (TPM) Liu says TPG is benefitting from increasing consumer demand for data and broadband services. Its low cost offering has led to it developing a well-established niche position in the market. He says the management team is well regarded by the investment community. He says the risk is margin contraction if a competitor introduces “irrational pricing behavior”. CARSALES.COM (CRZ) This online vehicle advertising force continues to post solid results. For first half 2013, the company reported total operating revenue of $102.1 million, a 17 per cent increase on the previous corresponding period. Net profit after tax was up 14 per cent to $37.6 million. Mangan says the company continues to benefit from strong car sales across Australia. A strong Australian dollar makes imported cars cheaper. SANDFIRE RESOURCES NL (SFR) Owns the DeGrussa copper and gold mine in Western Australia. It announced the sale of its first shipment of copper concentrate from DeGrussa in December 2012 and the signing of three more contracts. Shipments of high grade direct shipping ore (DSO) from the open pit continue. Cathy Moises, of Evans & Partners, says Sandfire Resources has high-grade copper, is a very aggressive group and offers good exploration upside. Mangan says the possibility of a falling copper price is always a risk. So is absence of copper discoveries. SARACEN MINERAL HOLDINGS (SAR) Moises says executive chairman Guido Staltari is well regarded by the market. She describes Staltari as “ethical and cautious”. She says Saracen, a gold producer and explorer, is potentially a good growth story. She says the risk is burning too much capital. “Historically, too much capital spending has been the market’s biggest criticism,” she says. Please note that TheBull.com.au simply publishes broker recommendations on this page. The publication of these recommendations does not in any way constitute a recommendation on the part of TheBull.com.au. You should seek professional advice before making any investment decisions.