Could these listed companies be classified as foundational stocks?

If you have keenly been following the series on ‘get to know your mutual funds’, you would realise that in each post, the top 5 equity holdings of the fund’s portfolio are highlighted. Interestingly, of the few mutual funds covered so far, there appears to be much similarity in their various top 5 equity holdings. In other words, most of the mutual funds list similar companies as their top 5 equities. Out of curiosity, other mutual funds were also looked into to find out if the similarity trend would remain unchanged. To achieve this, some of the most recent annual reports (where available) of major mutual funds were examined. In all, 19 annual reports were studied, which covered 7 different mutual funds (both equity and balanced funds). The main purpose was to figure out if the topmost equities repeating more frequently in the various mutual funds could be considered as foundational stocks. In doing so, these stocks could become a sort of principal, key or foremost stock picks for investment portfolios. Many would agree, to some extent, that mutual funds are managed professionally by fund managers. Hence, following in the footsteps of these fund managers by replicating some of their top stock picks can be useful.

Why foundational stocks?

Investing in stocks is one of the most proven means to build wealth. However, picking the right stocks from the market can be challenging, especially for the novice investor. One requires a good portfolio mix comprising the right stocks in order to be successful. Just like building a house requires strong foundation to ensure its robustness, building wealth with stocks may equally require careful selection of stocks, in particular, starting with good foundational stocks. A poor foundation can cause your building to tremble or worse, topple down, so do poor foundational stocks can cause to your investment portfolio. Arguably, maintaining strong foundational stocks in your investment portfolio comes with some benefits such as good investment returns. Moreover, strong foundational stocks can somehow protect an investor from the impacts of market falls.

Summary procedure for selecting foundational stocks

As stated earlier, the top 5 equity holdings of seven (7) different mutual funds were compared. The mutual funds were Databank Epack, Databank Bfund, SAS Fortune Fund, HFC Equity trust, HFC Future Plan, CDH Balanced Fund and FirstBanc Heritage Fund. To ensure the use of up-to-date data for decision making, data covering the latest three years (2016, 2015 and 2014) were utilised. The topmost equities frequently appearing in the various mutual funds were preliminary grouped, followed by brief background study of their performances. The table below provides comparison between the top 5 equity holdings of the seven different mutual funds. For detailed (raw) data of the top equity holdings compilation, click on this link: Top five equity holdings of selected mutual funds.

 

Table 1: Comparison of top 5 equity holdings of selected mutual funds

 

Mutual fund

Top 5 Ghanaian equity holdings

2016

2015

2014

1 Databank Epack EGL, FML, GCB, SCB, MAC EGL, FML, GCB, SCB, TOTAL EGL, FML, GCB, SCB, SOGEGH
2 Databank Bfund EGL, FML, GCB, SCB, GOIL EGL, FML, GCB, SCB, GOIL EGL, EGH, GCB, SCB, TOTAL
3 SAS Fortune Fund EGL, FML, GCB, SCB, GOIL EGH, FML, GCB, SCB, GOIL EGH, FML, GCB, SCB, GOIL
4 HFC Equity Trust EGH, FML, GCB, TOTAL, GOIL EGH, ETI, GCB, TOTAL, GOIL EGH, HFC, GCB, EGL, TOTAL
5 HFC Future Plan EGL, FML, GCB, SCB, GOIL EGL, ETI, TOTAL, SCB, GOIL EGH, HFC, GCB, SCB, CAL
6 *CDH Balanced Fund CAL, FML, GCB CAL, FML, GCB Fund was not yet established
7 FirstBanC Heritage Fund Annual report not available EGL, EGH, GCB, SCB, SOGEGH EGL, SOGEGH, GCB, TOTAL, GOIL

*CDH invested in only three (3) stocks.

Observations and analysis

From the table above, GCB bank Ltd. (GCB) occurs 18 times out of the 19 studied annual reports. This is followed by Standard Chartered Bank (GH) Ltd. (SCB) which can be counted 13 times out of the 19 annual reports. The rest, in descending order, are Fan Milk Limited (FML), 12 times; Enterprise Group Limited (EGL), 12 times; Ghana Oil Company Limited (GOIL), 10 times; Ecobank Ghana Limited (EGH), 8 times; Total Petroleum Ghana Limited (TOTAL), 7 times; Societe Generale Ghana Limited (SOGEGH), 3 times. CAL Bank Limited (CAL), 3 times; Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), 2 times; HFC Bank (Ghana) Limited (HFC), 2 times; Mega African Capital Limited (MAC), once.

In total, 12 different stocks could be found in the top five equity holdings of the mutual funds. However, considering the comparatively low occurrences of SOGEGH, CAL, ETI, HFC and MAC, they were delisted, leaving the rest of the seven stocks as the preliminary group for further studies.

 

Table 2: Preliminary group of foundational stocks

Stock Number of occurrences in top 5 holdings
SCB 13
FML 12
EGL 12
GOIL 10
EGH 8
TOTAL 7

To study further on the above stocks, their historical performance trends were looked into. Simply, two main performance indices were examined- annual returns and dividend yields. It must be noted that stocks with fairly good returns can be indication of investors’ confidence in the companies. Furthermore, while dividend pay-outs provide regular income source, they also signal financial stability of companies. The latest 5-year annual returns and dividend yields of the stocks can be seen in the tables below.

 

Table 3: Latest 5-year performance results

Company Trading symbol Return, %
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016  Average
1 Enterprise Group Limited EGL 26.3 291.7 -6.9 37.1 0 69.6
2 Fan Milk Limited FML 50.4 86.5 -20.7 40 51.7 41.6
3 Ghana Oil Company Limited GOIL 93.8 43.5 19.1 33.3 -21.4 33.7
4 GCB Bank Limited GCB 13.5 131 13.4 -34.9 -6.1 23.4
5 Ecobank Ghana Limited EGH -6.3 87 35.5 7.6 -8.6 20
6 Standard Chartered Bank (GH) Ltd. SCB -74.7 29.9 36.2 -19.9 -25.2 -10.7
7 Total Petroleum Ghana Limited TOTAL 18.5 N/A 20.6 -16.4 -61.2 -9.6
GSE all-share-index 23.81 78.81 5.4 -11.77 -15.33 16.18

 

Table 4: Latest 5-year dividend yield

Company Trading symbol Dividend yield, %
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Average
1 Enterprise Group Limited EGL 3.33 0.00 1.43 1.04 2.1 1.58
2 Fan Milk Limited FML 1.13 0.00 1.71 0.00 1.4 0.85
3 Ghana Oil Company Limited GOIL 2.26 1.61 1.52 0.00 1.8 1.44
4 GCB Bank Limited GCB 3.33 2.94 3.96 8.44 8.7 5.47
5 Ecobank Ghana Limited EGH 8 5.18 5.66 11.27 12 8.42
6 Standard Chartered Bank (GH) Ltd. SCB 26.52 3.14 5.65 0.00 2.3 7.52
7 Total Petroleum Ghana Limited TOTAL 2.81 13.72 1.61 2.25 2.3 4.54

In terms of annual performance, with the exception of Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) and Total Petroleum Ghana Ltd. (TOTAL), the rest of the stocks show impressive positive results. Moreover, their average returns exceed that of the GSE (all-share index) in the same period. Enterprise group limited (EGL) beats the GSE index in 4 out of 5 years. Fan Milk and GCB similarly perform better than the market index in 4 out of 5 years while Ecobank and GOIL both exceed the index in 3 out of 5 years.

For dividend yields, Ecobank Ghana and Standard Chartered Bank lead with impressive average yields of 8.42% and 7.52% respectively.

It may also interest you that five of these stocks had even been commended in an earlier article recently. In the article by Kofi Busia Kyei (a financial analyst), EGL, EGH, FML, GOIL, and GCB were highlighted together with UNIL and BOPP as the few listed stocks that had offered great returns to investors in the past 10 years (Refer to the chart below).

foundational stocks _performance
Figure 1: 10-year return of selected stocks on the GSE Credit: Kofi Busia Kyei (a financial analyst)

Even though the performance trend of SCB doesn’t look so good, the high extent of its occurrence in the top five holdings of the various mutual funds may be due to positive future projections. The fund managers may have realised from their analysis, good earning or growth expectations of SCB, thus chasing its shares. Don’t forget that SCB is one of the few stocks that have recorded impressive returns in the current year so far. In fact, since the beginning of the year, its share price has appreciated by 115.52% as of 8th August 2017. Hence, considering it in our foundational stocks can be worth it. Unfortunately, because of the comparative low performance of TOTAL, in addition to its least number of occurrences in the top five holdings of the funds, delisting it from the group may be helpful for now. As a result, GCB, SCB, FML, EGL, GOIL and EGH can be finally listed as our proposed foundational stocks- six foundational stocks made up of three banking stocks, one insurance stock, one manufacturing stock and one petroleum stock (see Figure 2 below).

Foundational stocks
Figure 2: Proposed foundational stocks comprising six listed companies

Conclusion

The similarities between top 5 equity holdings of various mutual funds gave rise to this write-up. Through comparison and further background studies, six listed companies have been proposed as foundational stocks. These can be useful to investors in building their stock portfolios.

If you’re a new investor deciding on buying stocks from the exchange, you can think of starting with at least, one of these companies. Furthermore, investors who are already trading in stocks may also consider rebalancing their existing portfolio and perhaps buy more of these particular stocks.

Finally, if you’re yet to own shares of these stocks, my personal advice is to begin moderately with the ones that have already attained high appreciation in their share prices. For instance, the year-to-date returns of GOIL and SCB are currently 108.18% and 115.52% respectively, as of 8th August 2017. Even though they still have the potential to continue with their gains, the potential to fall is also inevitable due to the high prices already achieved.

 

Buying low-priced stocks: The benefits we underrate

low-priced stocks

Basically, listed companies on the stock market can be placed under two categories in terms of their share prices. On one side, there is the category of stocks that trade at comparatively high price per share. On the other side, there is another category that fairly trade at low price per share. One deliberation when it comes to stock trading is the decision on whether to purchase low-priced stocks or high-priced stocks. A few investors argue that buying low-priced stocks comes with many benefits. For instance, Warren Buffett, a veteran investor, argues that:

The key to successful investing is to buy low, [and] sell high.

Low-priced stocks may however not be necessarily cheap. In other words, it is important to look beyond the mere cheap price of a stock. This is because a number of factors can contribute to how high or low a stock price can be. For example, during stock split (when an institution decides to divide its existing shares into multiples), the price per each of the divided shares reduces by default while their values remain unchanged. When the shares of an institution become undervalued, it can also lead to a low-priced stock. Undervalued stocks are stocks that are sold at prices presumed to be below their true intrinsic value.

Due to the above contributing factors, using only the market price of a stock to determine its worth may be sometimes deceptive. In fact, some stocks may not be even worth the low price being paid for. For instance, cheap stocks that post fewer earnings may turn out to be costly if their price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio is high. Note that in general, the higher the P/E ratio, the more expensive the stock. The Ghana Stock Exchange publishes P/E ratios of the various listed stocks on its website. Recognising the underlying (or intrinsic) value of a stock when making decision on low-priced stocks would be useful.

Now, before we begin to list some of the benefits of buying low-priced stocks, we should bear in mind that buying low-priced stocks may also come with some downsides. In the meantime, let’s focus on their upsides.

 

  1. Lower initial investment

Low-priced stocks offer investors the opportunity to start with minimal amounts. This is particularly beneficial for low income earners as well as new investors who may not have that much to begin with. Besides, it makes it easier for one to invest as much of his investible money as possible. Remember that shares are bought in wholes, not in fractions. For instance, you cannot purchase 2.5 shares of a company’s stocks. Neither can you purchase 2.99 units of shares from the stock market- You are allowed to purchase in whole numbers such as 2 shares, 3 shares, etc. Let’s assume that you have only GH¢50 at your disposal to purchase some stocks on the GSE. With this amount, you can only afford one share of AGA (AngloGold Ashanti Limited) which is currently traded at GH¢37 per share. Thus, the remaining GH¢13 may be left idly. Meanwhile, the same GH¢50 could purchase 55 shares of CAL bank stocks (currently traded at GH¢0.9 per share), leaving just GH¢0.5 unused. In effect, low-priced stocks can offer maximum utilisation of one’s investment.

 

  1. High potential for growth

Low-priced stocks, in particular, undervalued stocks, appear to have greater potential for growth. In general, it is likely for the share price of a low-priced stock to rise steeply if the company comes out with something favourable. This places its shareholders in good position to make some gains. With any slightest increase in share price, investors owning more stocks stand a greater chance to increase their returns. For example, an investor with GH¢500 can purchase 10,000 shares of a stock priced at GH¢0.05 If the share price of this stock increases by 0.01 to GH¢0.06, the investor’s stock value would be GH¢600 (that is, 10000×0.06). This would be 20% appreciation from the original purchase price. In comparison, if an investor use the same GH¢500 to purchase 100 shares of a stock priced at GH¢5, he may not achieve similar results when the price of the stock appreciates by 0.01. In this instance, the value of the investor’s stocks would be GH¢501 (that is, 100×5.01), representing just a 0.2% appreciation.

It may also be important to note that not all low-priced stocks have the potential to appreciate exponentially at a given time. Moreover, the price movement of a few low-priced stocks tend to be erratic and risky. A typical example is CPC (Cocoa Processing Company) stock, known to be one of the low-priced stocks on the Ghana Stock Exchange. In fact, the share price of CPC can increase or drop by 50% within a particular trading day. Over the past five years, CPC stock (currently priced at GH¢0.02/share) has periodically enjoyed substantial [±50%] price movements within some particular years. Notwithstanding these significant movements, the opening and closing prices of CPC stock have remained unchanged in each of the individual years (since 2011). In effect, in terms of annual returns, CPC stock has recorded 0% from 2011 to 2016.

 

  1. The potential for high dividend earnings

Dividends are paid on each share held by a shareholder. This means that the higher the number of shares owned, the higher the earnings derived from dividends. All things being equal, as stock prices fall, they become cheaper to buy. Thus, you get the chance to buy an investment at a bargain rate. Low-priced stocks offer you the advantage of acquiring increased number of shares at the same monetary value. Let’s have a look at the example below:

Two investors, Gadasu and Ashai, both had GH¢1,000 at their disposal to purchase some stocks on the Ghana Stock Exchange. They both settled on purchasing shares of Societe Generale Ghana Limited (SOGEGH). However, Gadasu completed his purchase on 31st December 2014 while Ashai bought his shares two years later, on 30th December 2016. The price per share of SOGEGH on 31st December 2014 and 30th December 2016 was GH¢1 and GH¢0.62 respectively. Hence, with the GH¢1000, Gadasu possessed 1000 shares while Ashai owned 1612 shares of SOGEGH.

Now, in May 2017, Societe Generale paid a dividend of GH¢0.033/share to each qualified shareholder.  Gadasu and Ashai therefore earned GH¢33 and GH¢53.2 respectively from the dividend pay-outs.

It can be deduced from the above example that the low price of SOGEGH stock in 2016 gave Ashai the advantage to acquire more number of shares compared to what Gadasu attained in 2014. Ashai’s increased number of shares therefore made him earn more in dividends than Gadasu even though they equally invested GH¢1000. Unfortunately, not all companies follow a regular pattern of dividend payments. Furthermore, the dividend yield of many stocks may be considered too low. Thus, the advantage of earning more dividends from low-priced stocks may not be practical for all stocks.

 

  1. Improved diversification

Diversification continues to be a common term in the investment world due to the associated positive outcomes. Earlier in this post, it was mentioned that low-priced stocks make it affordable for investors to start with minimal amounts of money. The affordability factor allows investors to be able to invest a small amount of money in a diversified portfolio. Now, imagine a low-income earner who wish to invest GH¢50 in a diversified stock portfolio. If this investor selects Anglogold Ashanti (AGA) as one of his stock picks, he may end up spending almost all his GH¢50 on just a single share of AGA since one share of AGA is priced at about GH¢37. On the other hand, the investor may be able to purchase a mix of stocks comprising CAL bank (currently priced at about GH¢0.9), SOGEGH (currently priced at GH¢0.75) and probably GOIL (currently priced at GH¢2.29). For example, out of the GH¢50, he could spend GH¢20 on 22 CAL shares, GH¢10 on 13 shares of SOGEGH and GH¢20 on 8 shares of GOIL. This therefore gives the investor the opportunity to reap many of the benefits associated with investment diversification.