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BEST OF THE BROKERS

DRAX GROUP
Standard & Poor’s maintains its “sell” rating on Drax, despite noting the group has hedged all electricity output over the next three years at higher spreads than achieved in 2009, shielding its profits. But falling power prices due to weaker demand and lower gas costs have worsened its competitive position, it believes.

PROVIDENT FINANCIAL
Evolution rates Provident a “buy” ahead of full-year results on 2 March which it expects will produce another solid set of numbers. It says management has “played a very measured hand in terms of driving risk adjusted growth through the credit crunch and recession” and is expecting asset quality to remain stable, leaving Provident undervalued.

WILLIAM HILL
Collins Stewart, which rates the bookmaker a “buy”, says William Hill is unlikely to surprise on its 2009 performance since the pre-close update flagged revenue and earnings at the top of the range. Current trading is expected to outperform rival Ladbrokes’ revenue decline, partly due to an extra week of “normal” weather but also better machine and online performance.