Travis Perkins, the FTSE 100-listed builders’ merchant and home improvement retailer, reported a horrible set of results on Wednesday.
Shares promptly crumbled, losing as much as 7.6% of their value in early trading, reflecting investor fears about the company’s fortunes in the coming year.
Perkins shares have recovered a little by lunchtime in UK trade, but still sit right at the bottom of the FTSE 100, with the next biggest faller, consumer giant Reckitt Benckiser, down less than 3%.
Here’s the chart of just how bad it looks for TP on Wednesday:
The results could also signal a broader problem for Britain’s economy. The post-Brexit vote crash predicted by most economists after Britain’s leave decisions is starting to materialise.
Travis Perkins may be a canary down the coal mine for the UK, especially when it comes to the housing sector.
That’s a view put forward by Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets, who noted in an email circulated earlier that (emphasis ours):
“Travis Perkins is today’s blue-chip loser after a full year profits warning that could represent a canary in the Brexit coal mine. Especially after a summer of resilient UK economic data seeing off an army of doomsayers. News of multiple branch closures in response to slack demand, meaning an additional £40-50m exceptional restructuring costs, and management unable to gauge 2017 demand is not what ardent believers in the UK’s cherished housing market will want to hear.“
“The warning may … play in favour of all those recently quietened doomsayers who can claim anew that it is still too early to see a Brexit impact in UK macro data. Seasonality could play its part with a number of warnings from sector peers around the same time last year, but weather has been pretty kind.”
Travis Perkins is not the only company with involvement in the British housing and construction sector to report a worrying set of results on Wednesday. Foxtons — the London only estate agent — reported a more than 30% fall in revenue from sales during the third quarter of the year, which the company said reflected “a continuation of reduced activity in the London property sales market.”
Two companies — one that sells houses, one that provides the materials to build them — both struggling since the referendum. That could be the first indicator of a downturn on its way.
The basic argument here is that — barring a massive slump in PMIs straight after the vote — economic data so far has been much stronger than expected, pushing back the horizons of the crash that was predicted by almost every respectable economist and international organisation. However, now that companies with a material interest in the British economy are starting to struggle, it could be a first indicator that the UK economy is approaching the edge of a cliff.
Two companies with a combined market capitalisation that equates to just over 0.1% of UK GDP being in difficulty isn’t anything like a sure sign that economic oblivion awaits for Britain, but it is a worrying signal that something isn’t right.