Best of the brokers

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ASHTEAD
Panmure Gordon has upgraded plant-hire business Ashtead to “buy” with a target price of 626p following yesterday’s strong results. The broker praised the “stunning update” with profits ahead of expectations and strong revenue growth. “[Ashtead] is well placed for both further growth and further margin improvement, and given where we are in the cycle, the upside could still be considerable,” the note says.

HILTON FOOD GROUP
Numis Securities has downgraded meat packing firm Hilton Food to “hold” with a 330p target price. The broker is concerned that VION’s decision to sell its UK food operations could have an impact on Hilton, although it admits that it could be “some time” before it becomes clear if the sell-off has “any ramifications for Hilton Food”. Hilton’s main focus is on the packaging of red meat for Tesco.

MAN GROUP
Jefferies has cut its rating former FTSE 100 business Man Group to “underperform” from “hold”, while maintaining its 75p price target on the stock. The world’s biggest listed hedge fund has been battered following last week’s year-end results, which showed that funds under management continued to fall during 2012. Last week UBS analysts also downgraded the stock to “neutral”.