Three companies exposed to the housing slump

28102019_3 compnies exposed to housing slump

Three companies exposed to the housing slump

Between 2012 and 2016, mortgage lending standards were relaxed fuelling a domestic property investing boom. Together with a surge in offshore buying interest, a property and construction boom led to oversupply and frequent warnings from your author. The oversupply is now hitting the property market at the same time that bank lending standards have been tightened, property prices are falling, quality has been found wanting and building approvals have plunged.

While it’s true that auction clearance rates are rising, the fact remains that the economy needs more residential construction activity, not the sale of established dwellings. More importantly, national new ‘for sale’ listings volumes for the 28 days ended September 1 were down 16.8 per cent.

The sharp decline in building approvals will be followed by a sharp decline in construction activity as builders complete homes that were ordered a year or so ago. There is simply going to be a lot less new work, if approvals for future buildings are already a third lower than a year ago.

Because the residential construction industry employs 3.5 per cent of Australia’s workforce the lower incomes to be earned by chippies, sparkies, plumbers, brickies, tilers, painters and plasterers will be felt by the economy sufficiently for the RBA to be worried. That’s why they’re cutting rates. However, rate cuts aren’t sufficient to offset declining incomes, poor quality and oversupply to spur buyers to order new homes. No wonder the RBA is asking the government to spend more on infrastructure.

For companies directly exposed to new home construction activity conditions might become tougher before they improve.

Fletcher Building (ASX:FBU)

Fletcher Building, generates a third of its revenues from a portfolio of businesses including Tradelink plumbing and bathroom supplies, Iplex pipes, Rocla concrete and Stramit steel. The recent sharp decline in the Australian residential market saw EBIT fall 50 per cent in 2019. Fletcher is now cutting costs to stabilise the business. Cutting costs should be a daily discipline not part of a ‘restructuring’ and returns on equity are in single digits suggesting the balance sheet assets might be overvalued.

Adelaide Brighton Cement (ASX:ABC)

Approximately 30 per cent of Adelaide Brighton’s revenues is generated from residential housing activity. Half year revenues fell 6.3 per cent to $755.7 million and net profits fell to a loss of $17.9 million compared to a profit of $84.5 million for the prior corresponding period highlighting operating leverage. While management is hopeful of offsetting strength from mining and infrastructure, we note the iron ore prices are falling as are the share prices of large materials companies.

CSR Limited (ASX:CSR)

CSR produces Bradford insulation, PGH bricks, Gyprock plasterboard and Hebel precast concrete blocks. Reflecting the company’s exposure to residential construction, net sales the Building Products division fully participated in Australia’s construction boom with net sales up almost 60 per cent between 2013 and 2019. The decline in residential building approvals however will have the reverse effect and operating leverage may also impact margins.


Roger is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Montgomery Investment Management. Roger brings more than two decades of investment and financial market experience, knowledge and relationships to bear in his role as Chief Investment Officer. Prior to establishing Montgomery, Roger held positions at Ord Minnett Jardine Fleming, BT (Australia) Limited and Merrill Lynch.

This post was contributed by a representative of Montgomery Investment Management Pty Limited (AFSL No. 354564). The principal purpose of this post is to provide factual information and not provide financial product advice. Additionally, the information provided is not intended to provide any recommendation or opinion about any financial product. Any commentary and statements of opinion however may contain general advice only that is prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial circumstances or needs. Because of this, before acting on any of the information provided, you should always consider its appropriateness in light of your personal objectives, financial circumstances and needs and should consider seeking independent advice from a financial advisor if necessary before making any decisions. This post specifically excludes personal advice.

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  1. One company that so far has been strongly increasing revenue independent of the housing market is the online retailer of furniture and homeware, Temple & Webster Group (TPW).
    Their hypothesis is that the shift to online, which is being driven by the older millennials and those that have grown up buying everything online, is independent of broader macroeconomic factors and consumers are attracted to their products as they offer good value.
    However, the stock is very expensive, so it is difficult for value investors to consider buying it.

  2. Roger,

    There is a counter position for CSR – what about all this housing construction that has been done is substandard and materials (cladding) need replacing. Nobody is going to trust imported products (especially out of places like China and hence demand (to replace existing and future) is going to crank up for local products.? Also what if a number of these apartment blocks need to be pulled down and rebuilt – might sound farfetched but might be cheaper prospect especially if the land is worth far more that the building and nobody wants to live in them – too expensive to maintain and rents too low

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