BEST OF THE BROKERS

ATKINS
Brewin Dolphin has downgraded the design and engineering firm to “reduce” from “hold” with an unchanged target price of 675p, ahead of the government spending review this month. The broker believes that any upside from the firm’s recent acquisition of American peer PBSJ will be offset by spending cuts. Brewin sees scope for a better upside from Hyder and RPS.

WHITBREAD
Numis has downgraded the stock to “add” from “buy” following its recent strong trading performance, but has increased its target price by £1 to £19. The broker expects another upbeat update in next Tuesday’s interim results, with particularly strong sales at Premier Inn and coffee chain Costa. In the longer term, Numis predicts sales growth in all areas to accelerate.

PROVIDENT FINANCIAL
Arden Partners has upgraded the specialist lender to “neutral” from “sell” with an unchanged target price of 800p. The broker believes Provident’s 7.8 per cent dividend yield will support the price, but warns its dividend policy puts strain on the balance sheet that could be battered further by the austerity measures. Arden predicts a pre-tax profit of £136.5m this year.