Why Aristocrat Leisure Limited shares have gone nuts this year

Including its strong performance today the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) has gained just a paltry 1.8% so far this year. One constituent on the index which has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting has been Aristocrat Leisure Limited (ASX: ALL).

Year to date the shares of this leading pokie machine manufacturer have gone nuts and climbed an astonishing 53%.

In May of this year the share price bolted higher following the release of a very positive trading update to the market. For the first half of its financial year Aristocrat Leisure delivered year-on-year revenue growth of 47.4% to just over $1 billion, and statutory net profit after tax growth of 104% to $159 million.

Pleasingly Aristocrat Leisure is expecting the second half to be broadly in line with the first. According to CommSec analysts are expecting earnings per share to come in at 57.4 cents, up from 30.1 cents in FY 2015.

The $1.3 billion acquisition of Video Gaming Technologies has proven to be an astute move by management. It contributed strongly to its first half results and is expected to do likewise in the second half. Digital revenue and profits were double year on year, thanks largely to the VGT deal.

The company appears to see acquisitions as a catalyst for growth moving forward. Although no acquisitions have been made during the second half, earlier this year its CEO Jamie Odell revealed to the Sydney Morning Herald that the company was on the lookout for further acquisitions that would be accretive to earnings.

This is great to know and considering the success of Video Gaming Technologies, I have confidence in management to choose its acquisitions wisely.

With its shares changing hands at 27x forecast full year earnings they’re not cheap and come at a significant premium to industry peer Ainsworth Game Technology Limited (ASX: AGI). This valuation got a little too rich for the asset management arm of Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) it seems. Australia’s largest bank trimmed its position down from 9.8% to 8.8% last month.

But the growth prospects and overall quality of Aristocrat Leisure’s business are far higher than Ainsworth Game Technology in my opinion, which goes someway to justifying a price premium. However I would recommend holding off and waiting for a pull back in its shares before making an investment.

But these three fantastic shares are ones which I believe investors can invest in today. Each has growing earnings and dividends and could jump higher in the months ahead.

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Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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