Business

These former market darlings were down over 40% last year

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It really is remarkable just how far some ‘household name’ shares on the JSE have fallen. In years past, they were all favourites among fund managers and retail investors.

Steinhoff is perhaps the best example, with the share down over 99% from its all-time high in 2016.

In April that year, shares traded very close to R100. The collapse of the house of cards has been well-documented. Today, the share price is little over 50c.

Read: Steinhoff crashes to a record low [Dec 2022]

But this was a Top 40 stock. The success of the fraud was that many (most?) money managers were duped into the illusion of this company being a ‘blue chip’.

It is not common for a Top 40 share to collapse quite this spectacularly, but cast your eyes below the biggest shares on the market and there are some equally stunning declines.

On the JSE last year, a full seven former market darlings – all which had market caps in the billions (during the year, at least) – saw decreases of more than 40%. Many of these were midcaps, being the 41 to 100 largest companies listed on the local bourse.

Murray & Roberts

Leading the declines is former construction favourite M&R, whose share price dropped 80.6% during last year.

It is nearly impossible to believe that during the 2010 Fifa World Cup and Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project-fuelled construction boom in the late 2000s, its share price crested R1 000 (in 2007).

Since then, it has exited construction in the Middle East and South Africa, choosing to focus on its mining cementation business as well as energy, resources and infrastructure (primarily oil and gas business Clough in Australia).

Last year had been fairly non-eventful for the group until its trading update in August. Between then and the end of September, its share price nearly halved from R11.92 to R6.16.

M&R alarmed the market even further with a warning in October of a working capital crunch at the Australian oil and gas unit. Then followed a proposed sale of Clough which fell through a month later.

Read: M&R at risk of losing its Australian mining business [Dec 2022]

By early December, Clough was placed into voluntary administration.

By the end of the year, its shares were under R3.

Nampak

Nampak has been staring down the barrel of a gun for quite some time.

Its aggressive African expansion – on the back of dollar-denominated loans – has meant impairments to the values of operations in Nigeria and Angola, and a stretched balance sheet. Its debt load is plainly unsustainable, and it has been unable to find buyers for its assets at prices that resemble anything close to fair value.

The first sell-off followed a trading update in March and by the time it announced a rights issue in early December, many shareholders bailed –meaning a drop from about R2 to around R1 a share.

Read: Nampak plunges over 30% on R2bn capital raise proposal [Dec 2022]

The company now has a market cap of just more than R700 million. It intends to raise R2 billion in the rights issue, translating into massive dilution.

Shares ended 2022 down 73%.

Over a five-year period, Nampak’s shares are down approximately 90%.

PPC

Like M&R, PPC rode the construction boom in the late 2000s. In today’s terms, it traded at over R30 a share. It is down 70% over the last five years.

A turnaround plan under new shareholders and a new CEO has yielded results and the group managed to avoid a rights issue which had hovered over the cement producer throughout 2021. Retail investors, in particular, piled into the share as they pinned their hopes on the turnaround materialising. A fair amount of money could’ve been made during 2021 when it took root.

The ‘easy’ work has been done, particularly with regard to the separation of the balance sheets of its South African and international businesses. Trading in the first six months of its 2023 financial year has been particularly tough, with it reporting a headline loss due to its operations in Zimbabwe. Excluding these, the group remains profitable.

PPC shares ended last year 56% lower.

Read: New Eskom director identified as source of PPC market-sensitive media leaks [Nov 2022]

ArcelorMittal SA

Shares of this steel maker are up over 20% over the last five years but ended 2022 down 47%.

An international price “correction” during last year, together with production disruptions (think Transnet and load shedding) meant a nearly 30% fall in crude steel production in the first half of the year. Sales (locally and for export) declined by a more modest 8% and higher prices attained translated into stronger revenue.

Read: Sasol, ArcelorMittal to jointly explore green hydrogen, carbon capture projects [Oct 2022]

The group cautioned in July that “economic headwinds [had] intensified both internationally and domestically” and that this “will significantly affect the trading environment”.

Telkom

Telkom’s wild ride last year was, at least partially, triggered by a buyout approach from MTN in July.

This saw the share price leap from around R33 to nearly R50 where it stayed until October when the talks were terminated. The share plummeted back to around R35.

Weakness through the year – shares were above R50 in January 2022 – was almost all due to operational challenges being faced by the telecoms operator.

Most would agree that the company’s parts are worth more than its current R16 billion market cap, but without a plan to unlock this trapped value the group will continue to struggle.

Read: Telkom earnings plunge over 50% as consumers migrate to fibre, LTE [Nov 2022]

After its results in November, where it became clear it was still burning billions in cash and its mobile unit had run out of growth, shares were sold down further.

Its shares ended 2022 down 44%.

EOH

EOH’s fall from its peak has been almost as spectacular as Steinhoff’s.

It is down nearly 95% over five years, and 98% from its all-time high.

Still, CEO Stephen van Coller has done an outstanding job of stabilising the business and reducing debt. Some critics argue he has sacrificed upside by selling valuable IP businesses, but realistically he had little other option.

The business is far leaner, simpler and more focused than the sprawling group he inherited. Debt has more than halved from the R2.8 billion in FY19 to around R1.2 billion currently.

Read: EOH’s journey to redemption has blue chips knocking on its door [Oct 2022]

Van Coller maintains the final step in this turnaround is rectifying its capital structure with a R600 million capital raise (of which R500 million is via a rights issue). This saw a blip down to below R3 a share in November, but the share has recovered to just under R4. Sustained weakness through last year mean EOH ended down 41%.

Aveng

Aveng’s story is similar to Murray & Roberts’s – it too rode that construction wave in the first decade of this millennium. Today, the group looks very different with Moolmans (a contract mining business) and Australian construction unit McConnell Dowell.

This is a typical construction business – it builds bridges, roads, hospitals, offices and water treatment plants. Aveng finally disposed of Trident Steel late last year and will use the proceeds to settle its remaining debt in South Africa.

Read: Aveng turnaround: R700m sale of Trident Steel a ‘major milestone’ [Oct 2022]

In 2021, it was forced into two rights issues (raising around R400 million). It also did a 500:1 share consolidation at the end of that year.

It is down 95% over five years and relatively speaking – if the share consolidation is factored in – its share price exceeded (the equivalent of) R1 million a share in its glory decade.

Shares slumped in February following a profit warning and the release of its interim results.

Its shares were down 41% in 2022 but are 20% off the May lows (of under R13).

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