BEST OF THE BROKERS

DIAGEO
UBS rates the drinks company “buy” with a target price of 1,425p. The broker believes Diageo will ramp up advertising spending in the medium-term, helping prop up double-digit sales growth in new markets to minimie the effects of an expected seven per cent fall in Europe. UBS also expects Diageo to use its strong balance sheet to either make more acquisitions or return cash to investors within the next year.

FIRSTGROUP
Nomura rates the train group “neutral” but has revised its target price down to 345p, from 363p. The broker thinks the expiry of the firm’s Great Western and Capital Connect franchises means profitability will fall between next year and 2015, and Nomura has trimmed its forecasts by two to three per cent, assuming no new contract wins. In the short term, Nomura reckons stabilising the firm’s US schoolbus business is crucial to the group as a whole.

STANDARD LIFE
Morgan Stanley retains the savings and investment firm’s “underweight” rating, with a target price of 183p. The broker believes the firm’s surprisingly strong first half earnings were bolstered by lower quality assets and risky moves. Morgan Stanley is concerned about UK profitability, particularly in the self-invested personal pensions business, and prefers rival Prudential as a play on growth in insurance.