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Though operating in different sectors of the economy, there are a number of similarities between packaging company Transpaco and industrial services group Howden Africa.Both are more profitable than their peers in tough economic segments. Both are highly cash generative with strong balance sheets to boot. The respective management teams are conservative, but seemingly willing to look selectively at acquisition opportunities.In short these are specialised businesses that are managing to maintain thick(ish) operating margins in lean trading times by enforcing a lean and mean operating culture.There is, however, one major departure point … and one that is critical in assessing the short to medium-term outlook for both companies.Transpaco is paying a fairly generous dividend while still maintaining a well fortified balance sheet, while Howden has not paid a dividend since mid-2013 despite having a balance sheet that is reinforced by a net cash balance of R764m.Transpaco has shrugged off...

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