The worst stocks of 2019: Tullow Oil, Aston Martin, and more

£100 invested in the worst performing stock of the year would have left you with just £40 come December.

The FTSE 350, which combines the FTSE 100 and the more domestically-focused FTSE 250, has risen 15% during 2019 but not everyone has shared the spoils.

Oil and gas company Tullow Oil was the worst performer across the FTSE 350, according to data compiled by stock broker AJ Bell. The share price has collapsed by 60.7% between the start of January and 27 December.

Here are the ten worst performing stocks of the year and why they’ve had such a rough time of it:

  1. Tullow Oil (TLW.L) — 60.7% share price decline: Shares in Tullow cratered at the start of December after the company cut production forecasts, scrapped its dividend, and announced its CEO and exploration director were both leaving. Issues at one of its key oil fields in Ghana had already forced an earlier production warning in November. Tullow said it would have to take steps to protect cash flow in 2020. As far as updates go, it’s difficult to get much worse.

  2. Aston Martin Lagonda (AML.L) — 57.1% decline: Luxury car maker Aston Martin has had a dreadful first calendar year on the market, losing over half its value. The company has been dogged by disappointing updates, a struggle to turn a profit, and issues around financing. The share price has fallen by so much that there is now speculation around a possible takeover bid.

  3. NMC Health (NMC.L) — 35.9% decline: UAE healthcare business NMC Health was having a relatively quiet year until US short seller Muddy Waters targeted the company earlier this month. Muddy Waters said it had “serious doubts” about the company’s finances in a 34-page report published in mid-December. The note wiped around £2bn off the company’s value and the share price has struggled to recover since. NMC has called Muddy Waters’ report “false and mis-leading”.

  4. IP Group (IPO.L) — 35% decline: British intellectual property firm IP Group was a victim of one of the highest-profile scandals in the City this year: the collapse of Neil Woodford’s investment empire. Money manager Woodford was a longtime supporter of IP Group and one of its largest investors. Woodford was forced to suspend his flagship fund in June after a surge in withdrawals and it led to fears about a bargain basement sale of the IP Group stake. Woodford eventually offloaded his stake at a discount in September. Around the same time, IP Group blamed its poor share price performance on the “well-publicised difficulties experienced by Woodford Investment Management.”

  5. Plus500 (PLUS.L) — 29.6% decline: The damage was done for Plus500 early in the year. Shares in the spread betting company crashed 35% in February after Plus500 warned new stricter EU rules governing the sector would lead to profits “materially lower than current market expectations.” Another warning followed in April, although better updates since then have helped recover some ground.

  6. Pearson (PSON.L) — 28.2% decline: A profit warning in September knocked confidence in education publisher Pearson’s turnaround plan, sending the share price spiralling. CEO John Fallon has overseen six profit warnings during a rocky six years in charge. He announced earlier this month that he would be retiring in 2020. Fallon has sold off media assets like Penguin Random House and The Economist and instead focused the company solely on educational publishing. However, the shift to digital has proved painful.

  7. Fresnillo (FRES.L) — 26.2% decline: Gold and silver prices have both rallied more than 15% this year but precious metals miner Fresnillo as failed to capitalise on the boom. Operational issues led to a series of disappointing production updates from the world’s largest silver ore producer, sparking volatility in the share price.

  8. Centrica (CNA.L) — 25.5% decline: It’s been a torrid year for British Gas-owner Centrica, which has been struggling to navigate a new government cap on energy prices, competition from new challengers, and the shift to renewable energy. CEO Ian Conn announced he was quitting in July after unveiling a £446m loss in the first six months of the year. British Gas has also been haemorrhaging customers.

  9. AG Barr (BAG.L) — 24.6% decline: Everything was looking pretty rosy for Irn Bru-maker AG Barr until July. Then came a profit warning that sent the stock plummeting over 25% in just one day. The drinks company, which also makes energy drink Rockstar, told investors to expect a 10% fall in sales this year and a 20% drop in profit. The share price has struggled to recover since the disappointing news.

  10. Wood Group (WG.L) — 16.6% decline: Oil services and specialist equipment company Wood Group has been under pressure all year over its $1.7bn debt pile. Investors think the company is taking too long to reduce leverage, which has in fact been rising. The company is selling its nuclear division for £250m, with the deal expected to close in January, and the funds will be used to pay down debts. This could help to ease the pressure.

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