So how high is our stock as tipsters? My choice of Persimmon was based on solid foundations

Share this article

As sectors go, housing was admittedly a risky one to back. Housebuilders are slaves to the mortgage market: when banks aren't willing to lend to anyone but the safest buyers, and consumers don't fancy taking on mortgages while their jobs are at risk, the business of selling bricks and mortar is tough. Added to that was a small matter of a General Election, which usually slows the appetite of house buyers, plus a new Government throwing the planning system into chaos.

Even so, when I picked Persimmon a year ago, I assumed the market had factored much of this in. It hadn't, and Persimmon ended the year down 52.7p, falling 11.2 per cent to close 2010 at 416.8p.

However, I still maintain that of its peers, Persimmon has one of the most favourable outlooks. It has weathered the storm admirably, even restoring its dividend.

A housebuilding renaissance may arrive sooner than many expect. People still want to and need to buy houses; demand is simply pent up.

When it does return, I maintain that the York-based housebuilder, with its lean operating structure, experienced management team, hefty land bank and negligible debt levels will be one of the winners.

For 2011 I'm backing Dart Group, the airline, distribution and leisure group.

Leeds-based Dart has already enoyed a stellar year, with shares doubling over the past year. With that performance already under its belt, it's undoubtedly a risky bet, but I think Dart's growth story has much further to go.

Dart is more than just an airline. While its Jet2 budget flight service, based at Leeds Bradford, has traditionally driven profits growth, its jet2holidays leisure business is also starting to take off. Jet2holidays' customer numbers were up 51 per cent over the summer to 71,000.

Downturn or not, one of the last things a family cuts is its annual holiday.

Dart, led by chief executive and chairman Philip Meeson, has recognised this and tailored the business accordingly.

Its planes now fly to in-demand destinations at convenient times, many of which are out of the troubled euzo zone, thus benefiting from favourable exchange rates. It is also growing add-on revenues, such as hiring out movie players to passengers and encouraging them to pay for extra leg room.

As a result, its planes are fuller, passenger numbers up, and pre-tax profits rose 38 per cent to 38.7m for the six months to the end of September. Group sales were up 25 per cent to 340.4m.

At a time when rivals are closing bases and cutting services, Dart continues to grow. Across its entire fleet Jet2 has increased its seat capacity this winter by 29 per cent, and next summer it is upping capacity by 26 per cent.

This investment will lead to a bigger-than-normal second half loss – a period when it traditionally reports a deficit – but don't let that put you off. Dart is a solid cash generating business – its net cash generation more than doubled to 31m over the six months.

Dart's logistics business, Fowler Welch-Coolchain, which delivers chilled food and flowers for retailers, is also growing fast. Sales were up 23 per cent to 70.4m over the six months.

Dart's shares ended 2010 at 95p. I can see them climbing considerably higher.