Equity markets recover from March lows as expectations of a post-pandemic economic recovery emerge
Since mid-March, European stock markets have recovered from the lows reached during the acute phase of the first wave of the pandemic. Investors have welcomed the effects of the agreement reached among European Union countries on the Recovery Fund, as well as the support offered by the ECB in keeping the risks of the banking system under control.
Markets then experienced a correction in October, when the second wave of infections has raised fears about the economic impacts of the new restrictions introduced, while the outcome of the upcoming presidential elections in the United States appeared uncertain.
Instead, investors' risk appetite returned in the aftermath of Joe Biden's victory on 3 November. In the face of a divided Congress, it seems unlikely that a huge fiscal stimulus package will be approved; which makes it more likely that the Fed will inject new funds into the system, actually supporting the share prices. Investors have also found an additional positive trigger in the news - released by some pharma companies - that a vaccine against the virus will be available soon.
Italgas shares perform in line with the FTSE MIB index and remain at a level around 20% above the March 2020 lows
In this context, during 2020, Italgas shares have shown a performance (total return), around 4% higher than that of the FTSE MIB, the index of the blue chips of the Italian stock market. A partial misalignment has emerged in recent weeks, with the prospect of a new government led by Professor Mario Draghi, which has been welcomed by the market and led to the outperformance of the stocks in the more cyclical sectors.
In May 2020, Italgas also paid its shareholders a dividend of 0.256 euros per share, corresponding to a yield of 4.7% on the year-end 2019 price of 5.444 euros.
Despite continuing to trade at levels well above the 2020 low, recorded on 12 March 2020 at 4.11 euro, Italgas stock showed a less brilliant performance than that of the European sector index, the Stoxx Euro 600 Utilities. In this index some large integrated operators with exposure to the renewable energy business have a significant weight. Investors are willing to trade these companies on higher multiples as they benefit at the same time from low bond yields and perspective growth driven by the investments of the EU Green Deal program. Italgas stock, in line with other regulated or semi-regulated utilities, instead appears penalized in relative terms by the expectations of inflationary pressures that may characterize the future economic recovery.
A positive boost from the new strategic planning presentation
This does not prevent Italgas from continuing to benefit from solid fundamentals and attractive growth perspectives, as indicated in the 2020-2026 Strategic Plan presented last October. This picture has also led the two agencies Moody's and Fitch to confirm Italgas' long-term credit ratings with Baa2 and BBB+ respectively, both with an outlook that remains unchanged at "stable".