BEST OF THE BROKERS

THORNTONS
FinnCap reiterates its “sell” rating on Thorntons saying its recent results marked the latest in a disappointing run for the chocolate firm. It believes long term success depends on the business successfully rebalancing the business away from its retail stores towards other commercial sales. It adds this strategy is unproven.

DE LA RUE
Evolution Securities rates the money printer “neutral” with a target price of 670p. The broker says the recent problems with paper production are “a huge embarrassment” that will hit first-half profits by at least £35m. Evo says uncertainty continues to hold back the price, though stock will eventually return to “pre-Papergate levels”.

WHITBREAD
Execution Noble has begun coverage on the owner of Premier Inn and Costa with a “buy” rating and a fair value target of £17.80. The broker predicts earnings per share of 414p in 2011, around seven per cent ahead of consensus estimates, and says even the group’s weaker pub restaurants arm has scope for growth.