Stefanutti Stocks registered a grim result for the year ended February 2018, with a loss that exceeds the group’s market capitalisation of about R461m, but not everyone is depressed.

This comes after a loss of R161m in financial 2017, amid the realities of "operating within a demanding trading environment", including an impairment of assets of R667m.

This came mainly from goodwill that arose from the R1.1bn Stocks Limited buyout in 2008 when construction markets were booming.

Stocks Limited has a footprint across Southern Africa to the United Arab Emirates. It specialises in building hospitals, hotels, factories, offices, shopping centres, airport facilities and housing. However, the parent group has toughed it out since 2013, making modest profits in half of the years since.

"Unexciting results due to very tough conditions, but looking sufficiently robust to thrive if and when infrastructural spending and economic growth recur," Stephen Meintjes, head of research at Momentum Securities, said on Thursday.

This should warm the heart of Stefanutti Stocks CEO Willie Meyburgh. "From [2008] onwards the results we have had in the building business have not been the best. We don’t see this business [Stocks Limited] creating much value for us in the next few years. It is an accounting loss," he said.

He said hard currency projects for private clients in Africa were now a focus of the group.

Meanwhile, brownfield mining work was returning on the continent, amid prospects for building and civil work, including marine projects such as jetties. But Meyburgh acknowledged poor markets had caused staff and contractor attrition of about 3,000 people from 12,000 employed in the past two years.

Overall, group contract revenue from operations of R10.4bn rose R1.3bn from financial 2017. However, consequent to the impairment the group’s operating loss rose from R106m in the previous year to R451m now. That left earnings per share at a loss of 294.94c from a loss of 79.34c a year ago.

If the impairment was excluded, operating profit of R216m was an improvement over the R202m adjusted operating profit reported in 2017, the group said.

With the reversal of impairment charges, headline earnings per share was reported as a profit of 90.35c from 10.94c profit in February 2017. This was slightly better than the adjusted headline earnings per share of 89.86c reported in the previous year, the company said.

"The amount of work coming out of building and the competitiveness of the markets means we don’t see investors investing in large projects," Meyburgh said. The order book is R14.3bn, of which R4.9bn comes from outside SA, including from Kenya, Guinea, Ghana, Zambia and Mozambique.

"What is significant is that for the first time ever, more than 50% of operating profit came from outside of SA," he said.

Stefanutti’s capital expenditure came to R500m from R272m a year ago. This was incurred in expanding capacity, including for mining services.