Australia’s oldest listed investment firm is finding beaten-down lithium shares are starting to look like buys, with the sector’s downturn reminiscent of the hasty selling in healthcare stocks caused by weight-loss drug Ozempic, its top executive said. Founded in 1928, Australian Foundation Investment Company (AFIC) manages A$9.3 billion ($6.1 billion) and is a top-20 shareholder in blue chips such as Macquarie Group and BHP Group.
AFIC increased its stakes in local healthcare companies CSL and ResMed after a mid-year sell off triggered by the potential impact of Ozempic and other weight-loss drugs, according to Managing Director Mark Freeman. Since then shares in both companies have rebounded.
The company had an A$728 million stake in CSL as of Dec. 29 and is its 12th largest shareholder, according to LSEG data.
With lithium stocks out of favour due to a sustained fall in prices of the metal used in electric vehicles, Freeman said AFIC is starting to look at the sector and last year bought a small position in diversified miner Mineral Resources, which produces lithium.
“It’s like the weight-loss drug thing, you’re starting to get a lot of negative news, the lithium price has come off, so it’s starting to look a lot more interesting to us now,” he said in an interview after reporting results for the half year.
AFIC reported a 16% return for 2023 versus 14% for the S&P/ASX 200 Accumulation Index. Both figures include the impact of dividend tax credits.
Profit after tax for the half-year ended Dec. 31 fell to A$150.1 million, down 8.3% from the previous year’s A$163.7 primarily due to the decline in dividends from BHP, Rio Tinto and Woodside. ($1 = 1.5225 Australian dollars)
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