(News Bulletin 247) – The automobile manufacturer Stellantis splashed the past year with its sparkling results, ahead of the veterinary laboratory Virbac. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Orpea straightened out its balance sheet at the cost of a fall close to 100%, while the other retirement home operator Clariane also suffered.

The Parisian market had a good vintage in 2023, driven by fairly good corporate results as well as the end of the cycle of monetary tightening by the major central banks. In the end, the SBF 120 gained 15.26%. The rankings of the second flagship index of the Paris Stock Exchange, after the CAC 40, however, show that certain stocks were able to do better while others, on the contrary, had a year 2023 to forget.

Stellantis more gleaming than ever

It is not so common that the best performance of the CAC 40 is also that of the SBF 120. Quite simply because large caps tend to show less volatility than others, both downward and upward.

But in 2023 it is Stellantis which finished at the top of both the CAC 40 and the SBF 120, with an increase of 59.34%. The group resulting from the merger between Fiat Chrysler and PSA has once again demonstrated the quality of its operational execution, with an operating margin of 14.4% over the first six months of 2023. Only Porsche and Ferrari, but with a “luxury” positioning very different from the group, generate higher profitability.

“Stellantis’ operating income margins are impressive compared to its European counterparts, despite sales in similar markets, demonstrating its ability to remain cost disciplined,” praises Royal Bank of Canada. The Franco-Italian-American group is also one of the five stocks in the automotive sector to favor in 2024, according to Bank of America. And to think that its general director, Carlos Tavares, a perfectionist at heart, believes that his teams did not “do well” several things this year…

The Virbac veterinary laboratory (+57.68%) climbs to second place and takes its revenge after a difficult year 2022 (-46.3%). The company has raised its targets several times this year, which has helped to relegate to secondary importance the cyberattack that the company suffered during the summer.

Also mistreated last year (-76%), Solutions 30 regained momentum in 2023 (+56.27%) and is in third place. Its performance was supported by the strength of its activity in the “Benelux” zone (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg), a region which recorded growth on a comparable basis of more than 67% in the third quarter, thanks in particular to the deployment of very high speed network in Belgium and the countries. In addition, the market appreciated the group’s desire to target a double-digit gross operating margin (Ebitda) in all of its geographies.

X-Fab at the foot of the podium

The semiconductor group X-Fab (+53.89%), which joined the SBF 120 in September, fails at the foot of the podium. X-Fab is one of the main European foundries, specializing in the development of chips on silicon wafers for digital or analog circuits.

Its products serve the automotive industry in particular, which represents around half of its turnover. The group has experienced strong growth this year, of 31% in the third quarter for its core activities. “After a temporary decline in 2020, sales have recovered and gross margins and adjusted gross operating profit (EBITDA) have reached new heights,” underlines Degroof Petercam.

“Growth is clearly there because bookings have been excellent, prototyping has trended up and is a leading indicator of growth, and there is the main external driver: the continued growth of silicon content in cars,” adds the Belgian bank.

Once expected to join the CAC 40, Accor completes the top 5 (+48.18%). The company led by Sébastien Bazin rode the resumption of tourism, raised its annual outlook several times, held an investor day which was considered successful by analysts, saw its credit rating raised by the agencies, and announced buyouts of actions.

Among the other groups present in the top 10 are CAC 40 companies whose transformations have produced robust results, positively surprising investors: Saint-Gobain (+46.02%), the oldest company in the CAC 40, and Publicis (+41.37%).

Retirement home operators at the back of the pack

If the markets have been buoyant this year, several SBF 120 stocks have, on the contrary, suffered greatly, with dizzying declines. If Casino (-91.97%) left the index in September and therefore does not appear in the “list” of the biggest declines, the biggest fall unsurprisingly remains the retirement home operator Orpea (-99, 48%).

The year 2022 was marked by the revelations of the investigative book “The Gravediggers” and the surge in inflation which brought the group’s model to the ground, undermined by its debt and a large real estate portfolio. In 2023, Orpea was completely recapitalized to ensure its survival, coming under the control of a consortium led by Caisse des Dépôts.

This was done at the cost of three capital increases – the third will occur at the start of the year – and the issuance of a total of 159 billion (yes you read correctly) of shares. Shareholders thus suffered a mega-dilution which ended up plunging the price to 1.69 euro cents. And to think that just two years ago the share was worth almost 47 euros…

The other large retirement home operator Clariane (-76.25%) also suffered this year. The former Korian has had to deal all year with doubts about the refinancing of its debt maturities (which amounted, at the start of the year, to around 900 million euros for 2023 and barely less for 2024), in a context of high interest rates. Fears of a capital increase arose and the group had to revise upwards its debt forecast for the end of the year.

In mid-November, Clariane decided to launch a capital increase project of 300 million euros, guaranteed in part by Crédit Agricole Assurances and planned for next year, as well as to sell around 1 billion euros of assets from 2024.

Euroapi (-58.63%) is in third place for the biggest falls of the year. The former Sanofi subsidiary specializing in active pharmaceutical ingredients especially experienced a descent into stock market hell on October 10, sinking 59% in one session after publishing a heavy warning on results and shelving its medium-term objectives.

This “flop 5” is completed by Worldline (-57.1%) and Alstom (-46.63%), two groups which competed in October for the unenviable title of heaviest historical fall in value of the CAC 40 on one session (-37.6% for Alstom then -59% for Worldline). Alstom issued a heavy warning on its cash flow before opening the door, in mid-November, to a potential capital increase to preserve its credit rating, a possibility that the group previously refused to consider. For its part, Worldline lowered its annual objectives and set aside its medium-term targets while publishing growth below expectations. This constituted a serious setback for a market which had already shown its disenchantment, in recent years, with the payments sector. This poor performance cost it its place in the CAC 40, Worldline having been ejected from the flagship index in mid-December.