Quantum Foods — producer of poultry, eggs and animal feeds — went ex-dividend on Wednesday, which sent the share price skittering nervously down. After paying a sumptuous ordinary and special dividend from the rich proceeds of a bumper period for the egg business, Quantum's share was always going to retreat ... especially as trading conditions for the financial year ahead are no longer as appetising. The intrigue now lies in where the Quantum share price settles ahead of the mid-February AGM, with the market having to make ongoing reassessments of the short-to-medium term prospects. Quantum is one of the cheapest shares on the JSE with a trailing earnings multiple of less than three times. Even if earnings halve in the year ahead, the forward market rating is not nearly at demanding levels. The business — chaired by food sector doyen Andre Hanekom and managed by astute CEO Hennie Lourens — is a lean and mean operation. But profit prospects, especially on the poultry side, will be di...

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