Who Owns Santos Limited (ASX:STO)?

I am going to take a deep dive into Santos Limited’s (ASX:STO) most recent ownership structure, not a frequent subject of discussion among individual investors. Ownership structure of a company has been found to affect share performance over time. If an activist institution invests the same amount of capital in a stock as a passive long-term pension fund, the implications are potentially different for key corporate financing decisions such as the use of excess cash or the source of financing. While these are more of a long-term investor’s concern, short-term investors may find the impact of institutional trading overwhelming enough to lose out on what could be a potential opportunity. Therefore, it is beneficial for us to examine STO’s ownership structure in more detail.

View our latest analysis for Santos

ASX:STO Ownership Summary August 23rd 18
ASX:STO Ownership Summary August 23rd 18

Institutional Ownership

With an institutional ownership of 16.73%, STO can face volatile stock price movements if institutions execute block trades on the open market, more so, when there are relatively small amounts of shares available on the market to trade These moves, at least in the short-term, are generally observed in an institutional ownership mix comprising of active stock pickers, in particular levered hedge funds, which can cause large price swings. In the case of STO, investors need not worry about such volatility considering active hedge funds don’t have a significant stake. However, we should dig deeper into STO’s ownership structure and find out how other key ownership classes can affect its investment profile.

Insider Ownership

An important group of shareholders are company insiders. Insider ownership has to do more with how the company is managed and less to do with the direct impact of the magnitude of shares trading on the market. STO insiders may only hold a a minor stake in the company, but this is a relatively significant holding given it is a large-cap stock. A higher level of insider ownership has been linked to management executing on high-returning projects instead of expansion projects for the sake of apparent growth. It would also be interesting to check what insiders have been doing with their shareholding recently. Insider buying can be a positive indicator of future performance, but a selling decision can be simply driven by personal financial requirements.
ASX:STO Insider Trading August 23rd 18
ASX:STO Insider Trading August 23rd 18

General Public Ownership

A big stake of 67.74% in STO is held by the general public. This size of ownership gives retail investors collective power in deciding on major policy decisions such as executive compensation, appointment of directors and acquisitions of businesses.

Private Company Ownership

Another group of owners that a potential investor in STO should consider are private companies, with a stake of 5.24%. While they invest more often due to strategic interests, an investment can also be driven by capital gains through share price appreciation. This kind of ownership, if predominantly strategic, can give these companies a significant power to affect STO’s business strategy. Thus, potential investors should look into these business relations and check how it can impact long-term shareholder returns.

Next Steps:

STO’s considerably high level of institutional ownership calls for further analysis into its margin of safety. This is to avoid getting trapped in a sustained sell-off that is often observed in stocks with this level of institutional participation. However, ownership structure should not be the only determining factor when you’re building an investment thesis for STO. Rather, you should be looking at fundamental drivers such as the intrinsic valuation, which is a key driver of Santos’s share price. I highly recommend you to complete your research by taking a look at the following:

  1. Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for STO’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for STO’s outlook.
  2. Past Track Record: Has STO been consistently performing well irrespective of the ups and downs in the market? Go into more detail in the past performance analysis and take a look at the free visual representations of STO’s historicals for more clarity.
  3. Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.

NB: Figures in this article are calculated using data from the last twelve months, which refer to the 12-month period ending on the last date of the month the financial statement is dated. This may not be consistent with full year annual report figures.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.