British Gas Owner’s 33-Year Reign in FTSE 100 Index Nears an End
(Bloomberg) -- British Gas’s more than three-decade connection to the U.K.’s blue-chip stock index looks set to come to an end after shares of parent Centrica Plc plunged by more than half this year.
Analysts expect Centrica to be demoted from the FTSE 100 benchmark in a quarterly re-shuffle next week. That would represent a moment of historical significance for a stock that under different names has been ever-present in the gauge since 1986, the year that the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher privatized British Gas through an initial public offering.
The shares’ 56% slide this year has reduced the company’s market value to a level where it no longer passes the test to retain its position in the FTSE 100.
“Centrica’s ejection would cap a multi-year share-price slide that dates back to a peak of almost 400 pence in 2013,” Russ Mould, investment director at brokerage AJ Bell, said in emailed commentary. The stock closed on Thursday at 39.05 pence, valuing the business at 2.3 billion pounds ($2.8 billion).
According to guidelines from index provider FTSE Russell, a stock will be removed from the FTSE 100 if its market capitalization ranks 111 or below among eligible shares at the time of the re-balancing. At its current valuation, Centrica is the 140th biggest company on the FTSE All Share index. The next quarterly review will be based on June 2 closing prices and announced on June 3.
The first half of 2020 has been torrid for Centrica, which suspended its dividend and paused a planned sale of North Sea oil and gas assets last month after the Covid-19 pandemic sapped energy demand and triggered a slump in crude prices. Chief Executive Officer Iain Conn stepped down in March after five years leading the group.
But the share price fall dates back a lot further than that. On top of a longer-term slide in oil prices, the company has faced competition from smaller challengers like Octopus Energy and Bulb, while also being hit by a price cap by the U.K. Office of Gas and Electricity Markets. The shares are now 90% below a record high set in 2013.
British Gas Plc joined the FTSE 100 on Dec. 9, 1986 after a share sale that was promoted in a government television campaign urging Britons to spread word of the investment opportunity by telling “Sid,” a name that was meant to represent the general public.
British Gas, under Centrica, has seen its share of the domestic market steadily decline over the past 15 years, according to Ofgem data, also losing ground to rivals like Electricite de France SA and SSE Plc.
That said, a potential turnaround isn’t being ruled out by some analysts.
“Following years of structural challenges faced by Centrica in the U.K. retail market, failed attempts to deliver growth in its consumer business and falling profits from its commodity-exposed units, we believe the worst is behind the company,” Citigroup analyst Jenny Ping wrote in a May 21 note.
The company has sufficient liquidity to navigate volatile demand due to the pandemic, and a future simplification of the group could boost the shares, Ping wrote.
A spokesman for Centrica declined to comment on the upcoming index review when reached by phone.
Other stocks that might be demoted from the FTSE 100 in next week’s review include Princes and P&O cruise operator Carnival Plc, budget airline EasyJet Plc and plane-parts maker Meggitt Plc, reflecting the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on global travel demand, according to Helal Miah, an analyst at investment broker The Share Centre, who spoke by phone.
That would potentially leave them vulnerable to selling by funds whose aim is to mirror the performance of the FTSE 100 -- known as tracker funds.
Stocks that could be added to the benchmark gauge include cybersecurity firm Avast Plc, betting company GVC Holdings Plc and home emergency and repair services provider HomeServe Plc, Miah said.
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