Mining Week 17/’12: The sense and nonsense of stock prices
April is traditionally the month in which the major diversified miners present their annual results. BHP Billiton closes its fiscal year in the mid of the calender year, but joins its main competitors in giving an update of its performance in an investor meeting in this month. One of the key objectives of the executives presenting their numbers to an audience that will listen to each of the presentations in the course of a couple of weeks is to make the company look good, or at least better than competitors.
Managing the expectations of investors serves a twofold purpose: in the first place the goal is to make sure the investors know what they are investing in and what the perspectives for the company are – as a result the stock price should reflect the true performance and potential of the company; in the second place the goal is to keep the shareprice high or make it go higher – often referred to ironically as ‘reflecting the true value of the company’.
Why care about stock prices?
- Market value matters in the first place from a financial point of view. The higher the market price, the easier and cheaper it is to raise debt, giving flexibility to invest.
- The second important reason to care about the share price is the mergers and acquisitions arena. An undervalued company is an acquisition target, and having a strong share price makes doing paper acquisitions (pay with shares instead of cash) attractive.
Why not care about stock prices?
- Market value does not matter because an executive should not be driven by short term stock price fluctuations, which are typically mainly the result of market conditions and events the executives do not have a hand or a say in. In the long term good management will lead to a distinct outperformance of competitors, but short term movements are too erratic to say much about management performance.
- An executive should not be driven by the market price (i.e. the shareholders interest) alone, but should take the interests of other stakeholders (employees, society), which are often not directly or fully included in the share price, in account too.
©2012 | Wilfred Visser | thebusinessofmining.com
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