The Visible Hand
TIM COHEN: Peering through BAT’s investment smoke
Whether to buy the tobacco company’s shares remains a conundrum
There are plenty of investment conundrums on the JSE at the moment, but perhaps one of the largest is British American Tobacco (BAT). The conundrum is this: the share is cheap as chips, the company is earning a fortune, it’s growing at a respectable pace, but the share price just doesn’t seem to be able to generate any momentum. Any value metrics you care to apply, the company comes out as a screaming buy. Yet the share price has just been slaughtered in 2018; down by almost half over the past year, and down 36% over the last three months. What happened to the idea of the cigarette company as the ultimate “safe harbour in choppy waters” defensive stock? So, not to avoid the obvious, smoking is bad for your health; everybody knows this now, and consequently, cigarette companies are on nobody’s “responsible investing” list. Nicotine is an addictive poison. But then again, if you are anything like me, so is cheese, salami, Scotch, wines from Kanonkop and Lindt chocolate, just to name a...