Even the JSE’s "big bird", Astral Foods, can’t wing it in this jittery market. Astral — Africa’s biggest poultry operation — issued an upbeat trading statement on Wednesday indicating earnings for the year to end-September would be up at least 80%. The trading update is not terribly surprising since trading conditions in the poultry sector have turned for the better — at least from the period when the sector was beset not only by prolonged drought conditions (which had the effect of pushing up feed prices) but also an outbreak of Avian influenza. In short, Astral expects headline earnings to be at least 85% up on the previous year — implying a bottom line figure of around R35/share. Notwithstanding the strong trading update, investors marked down the price of the group’s shares. It’s not as if Astral’s shares are "expensive". They trade on a forward earnings multiple of just seven times, and dangle a mouth-watering forward yield (assuming a two times dividend cover) of around 6.8%. ...

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