What the Metcash Downgrade Means for the Australian Stock Market

If you needed any more evidence of how desperate and focused on yield the Australian stock market is, look no further than Metcash’s announcement on Friday. In an attempt to revive its struggling food distribution and retailing business, Metcash [ASX:MTS] announced that it would invest nearly $700 million over the next five years.

To help fund the investment program, the company said it would cut its dividend payout ratio from 90% to 60% – which represents a sizeable dividend reduction. Hearing ‘dividend’ and ‘cut’ in the same sentence saw the market dump Metcash shares by nearly 10% on the day.

There were plenty of reasons to be wary of investing in Metcash before Friday’s announcement. Being caught in a competitive battle with Coles and Woolies being just one of them. But here’s the weird thing about the market right now…

Metcash was distributing nearly all of its profits in dividends in an industry where its two largest rivals are investing heavily in growth. And it could keep this up only to the detriment of its competitive positioning and earnings growth. Yet the market continued to buy the stock for the ‘yield’.

But now that Metcash has faced reality and announced plans for growth, the market drops it like a hot potato. In other words, the market puts a higher price on a business that distributes nearly all its earnings and thus doesn’t grow its assets via reinvestment, and a lower price on a business that plans to generate long term growth through an extensive investment program. That’s not terribly rational.

Granted, no one knows whether the plans will work or whether the investment will generate a decent return, but the ‘buy for yield’ logic befits a market that is very shortsighted and unquestioning right now.


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Greg Canavan is a Contributing Editor at Markets & Money and Head of Research at Port Phillip Publishing. He advocates a counter-intuitive investment philosophy based on the old adage that ‘ignorance is bliss’. Greg says that investing in the ‘Information Age’ means you now have all the information you need. But is it really useful? Much of it is noise, and serves to confuse rather than inform investors. And, through the process of confirmation bias, you tend to sift the information that you agree with. As a result, you reinforce your biases. This gives you the impression that you know what is going on. But really, you don’t know. No one does. The world is far too complex to understand. When you accept this, your newfound ignorance becomes a formidable investment weapon. That’s because you’re not a slave to your emotions and biases. Greg puts this philosophy into action as the Editor of Crisis & Opportunity. He sees opportunities in crises. To find the opportunities, he uses a process called the ‘Fusion Method’, which combines charting analysis with more conventional valuation analysis. Charting is important because it contains no opinions or emotions. Combine that with traditional stock analysis, and you have a robust stock selection strategy. With Greg’s help, you can implement a long-term wealth-building strategy into your financial planning, be better prepared for the financial challenges ahead, and stop making the same mistakes that most private investors do every time they buy a stock. To find out more about Greg’s investing style and his financial worldview, take out a free subscription to Markets & Money here. And to discover more about Greg’s ‘ignorance is bliss’ investment strategy and the Fusion Method of investing, take out a 30-day trial to his value investing service Crisis & Opportunity here. Official websites and financial e-letters Greg writes for:

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