Scots FTSE shares up 16% in 2019 but AIM firms lag

Shares of Scottish companies listed on the FTSE outperformed the FTSE 350 and All Share indices in 2019 — but Alternative Investment Market (AIM) firms based in Scotland lagged their benchmark, according to new analysis from Brewin Dolphin.  

The wealth manager found that Scottish firms on the FTSE averaged a gain of 16.11% in 2019, compared to increases of 14.17% and 14.19% for the FTSE 350 and FTSE All Share.

Packaging firm Macfarlane Group (+50.70%), transport giant FirstGroup (+50.36%), and oil and gas firm Cairn Energy (+36.67%) rose the most.

The FTSE 100 and 250 finished the year up by 12.10% and 25.03%, respectively. 

However, Scottish shares on the AIM junior index ended 2019 just 3.38% ahead, compared to the AIM All Share’s gain of 11.61%.

“In terms of overall share price gains and losses last year, the picture was fairly balanced among the number of AIM-listed Scottish businesses; although, the de-listing of Goals Soccer in September wiped out shareholders and had an impact on the overall performance of this collection of Scottish companies,” said Brewin Dolphin.

“Only three of the 19 Scottish-based constituents of the FTSE saw their share price decline in 2019: Irn-Bru maker AG Barr (-26.49%); Wood (-21.28%), the oil and gas services provider; and aviation services business John Menzies (-7.62%).

“Macfarlane Group (+50.70%), the packing company; transport provider FirstGroup (+50.36%); and Cairn Energy (+36.67%), the oil and gas group saw the largest gains.”

In addition to the problems at Goals Soccer, Scottish AIM company Quiz, the fashion retailer, lost nearly half of its value (-47.53%) in another tough year for the business, and Lansdowne Oil & Gas also saw its shares fall by 46.43%. 

John Moore, senior investment manager at Brewin Dolphin, said: “Scottish shares on the FTSE performed better than the overall ‘market’, which is undoubtedly a good news story.

“It demonstrates the resilience many of them have shown in the face of an uncertain 12 months.

“However, the performance of the AIM-listed shares shows why investors considering this higher risk area should ensure they have a diverse portfolio of assets – both by geography and sector – and take appropriate professional advice.

“Smaller businesses were largely 2019’s problem children.

“Generally, the issues they have faced are stock-specific or particular to their markets – oil and gas and property, for example, which are more represented among the AIM companies.

“Brexit clarity should help drive more enthusiasm for these businesses: with growing appetite for private rented sector (PRS) property reflecting on to Sigma and the self-help and income attraction of Ediston, which have largely been overlooked during a period of risk aversion. 

“Indeed, some of Scotland’s rising stars – AG Barr and Craneware among them – experienced bumps on the road in 2019.

“However, they are well-financed businesses and seem to be in a good position to recover lost ground if they can successfully execute their business plans in the year ahead.

“Despite the share price movements recorded, the winners of 2019 are not trading on expensive ratings – which, combined with recovery potential elsewhere, means there is room for optimism and potentially further gains in the year ahead.

“That said, the level of M&A activity last year suggests there could be further deals to be done in 2020 and there will undoubtedly be more questions faced by some of the businesses that did not perform well against a backdrop of structural challenges, whether it is retail or oil and gas volatility.”