Noteworthy Belgian, French & Swiss Equities
We start with Belgium, where a handful of notable names standout.
Perhaps the most well-known is Anheuser-Busch InBev (more commonly known as AB InBev), the world’s largest brewer, with over 600 brands being sold worldwide, including names such as Budweiser, Corona, and Stella Artois. The group has its primary listing in Brussels, along with secondary listings in Mexico, Johannesburg and New York. While 2023 proved a rather torrid year for the firm, amid a significant advertising controversy, the final quarter of the year saw a substantial recovery in the stock’s price, which gained ground in line with the broader risk rally taking place at the time. Nevertheless, and despite being classed as a consumer staple, headwinds may intensify during the year ahead, particularly if economic momentum wanes as consensus expects.
Financials also feature heavily in the range of Belgian stocks being listed, including the nation’s second-largest bank (by assets) KBC Group, as well as a handful of notable holding companies such as GBL and Sofina, both of which have various interests across a range of sectors within Europe.
Turning to France, where the luxury goods sector features heavily, with names such as LVMH, Hermes, Dior and Kering all standing out.
The sector has struggled significant of late, with all the aforementioned firms still in the midst of a share price slump that started all the way back in Q2 23, driven largely by the continued sluggish performance of the Chinese economy, and the subsequent decline in overseas demand for luxury goods. Any relief for these rather beleaguered stocks is likely to hinge on a substantial pick-up in foreign demand, likely as a result of additional fiscal stimulus being delivered in the world’s second largest economy.
Elsewhere, numerous well-known banks including BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole, and Societe Generale feature among the newly listed equities. Earnings among eurozone banks should remain relatively solid over the next twelve months, though margins may be somewhat compressed as the ECB are likely to deliver a significant amount of deposit rate cuts over the course of 2024.
A handful of other, cyclical stocks also standout from the round of newly listed equities, including aerospace giant Airbus, whose share price has taken off as a result of the ongoing wave of aging fleet replacement across the global airline industry, as well as insurance giant Axa, and chemicals conglomerate Air Liquide, who are making increasing waves in the carbon capture space.
Finally, we turn to Switzerland, and an equity market that, perhaps, attracted more attention than it typically would in 2023, as a result of the well-documented collapse of Credit Suisse, and subsequent forced marriage with arch-rival UBS.
Shares in the country’s largest bank have enjoyed a strong run since the tumult of last March, rallying over 50% during said period, though the integration of their failed rival does pose an ongoing risk that the bank, and traders alike, will have to continue to manage.
Meanwhile, a handful of well-known healthcare names are now also available for Pepperstone clients to trade, including the world’s fourth- and fifth-largest pharma firms by revenue in Novartis and Roche respectively. Other notable stocks include Nestlé, the world’s largest publicly held food company, in addition to a host of insurance behemoths including Chubb, Zurich, Swiss Re, and Swiss Life.
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