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Chemicals are expensive business | No one fancies Beyond Meat |

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Today's big stories

  1. BASF posted a drop-off in profit, and the Russia-Ukraine crisis could make things worse
  2. Our analyst has laid out how to protect your investments now that war’s broken out – Read Now
  3. Beyond Meat reported worse-than-expected results, as shoppers lose their taste for meat-free products

Workplace Hazard

Workplace Hazard

What’s Going On Here?

BASF reported mixed results on Friday, and investors scrambled to wash their hands of the German chemicals company’s toxic stock.

What Does This Mean?

BASF’s products are essential to just about every industry out there: electronics, cars, construction, agriculture – you name it. That means its customers’ hands were tied when the company upped its prices, which helped push its revenue 24% higher last quarter than the same time last year. Trouble was, BASF’s costs climbed too – by nearly $1 billion, on the back of spiking energy prices in Europe alone. That goes some way to explain why its profit only grew a weaker-than-expected 10% last quarter. It probably won’t pick up its feet anytime soon, either: BASF said it’s anticipating its profit to be lower this year than last, as economic growth languishes after a bumper 2021. Investors didn’t like that one bit: they sent its shares down 4%.

Why Should I Care?

For you personally: This always comes back on you.
Those energy bills aren’t likely to come down anytime soon, not after the Russian invasion of Ukraine sent natural gas and power prices in Europe surging. That’s got BASF – one of Europe’s biggest corporate users of energy – planning some hefty price hikes to offset those rising costs. But not only do you not have that option, BASF’s hikes will make everything from plastics to electronics more expensive, meaning you might feel the pinch there too.

The bigger picture: Ooh la la.
Those higher prices will give inflation in Europe another nudge, which is the last thing it needs after data out last week showed consumer prices in France – the region’s second-biggest economy – rose 4.1% in February compared to a year ago. That’s a big jump from January’s 3.3%, and the highest inflation rate the country’s seen since records began.

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Analyst Take

How To Protect Your Portfolio In A Time Of War

How To Protect Your Portfolio In A Time Of War
Photo of Stéphane Renevier

Stéphane Renevier, Analyst

What’s Going On Here?

Investors were already struggling with the threat of higher inflation and rising interest rates.

Now, though, the crisis in Eastern Europe has compounded their anxiety to the nth degree, and markets are looking very delicate right now.

And since geopolitical crises are so difficult to predict, you might want to stay as far away as you can from making any bold investments.

The best thing you can do, then, is to reduce your risk, and there are four ways you could do just that.

So that’s today’s Insight: how to protect your portfolio in the midst of all this conflict.

Read or listen to the Insight here

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Imitation Game

Imitation Game

What’s Going On Here?

Beyond Meat reported worse-than-expected results late last week, even as the plant-based brand desperately tries to convince foodies that it tastes just as good as the real thing.

What Does This Mean?

Beyond Meat makes more than half of its revenue from selling its beef-free burgers, pork-free sausages, and chicken-free chicken at US stores. But weak demand, higher discounts, and more competition from other plant-based brands all conspired to push the company’s US retail sales revenue down 20% last quarter from the same time in 2020. So it didn’t matter that it sold more internationally and to American restaurants: Beyond Meat’s overall revenue shrank by 1% last quarter. Worse still, supply chain hiccups and higher material and manufacturing costs caused the company’s losses to triple last quarter. Investors couldn’t stomach another bite: they sent its stock down more than 10%.

Why Should I Care?

The bigger picture: Is Beyond Meat a flash in the plant?
Beyond Meat’s outlook for 2022 missed expectations too, which is indicative of a wider issue: the growth of the plant-based meat market is slowing down fast. In fact, US sales of plant-based meat – which grew 46% in 2020 – fell 0.5% last year, according to data provider SPINS (tweet this). Maple Leaf Foods has a theory as to why: the owner of plant-based brand Lightlife thinks consumers might not actually like the taste of meat alternatives, and their lofty prices certainly don’t help them go down any easier.

Zooming out: Quick, someone get the quinoa.
There’s another – arguably more pressing – food problem in the world right now: Russia and Ukraine account for more than a quarter of the global trade in wheat between them, as well as a fifth of corn sales. The recent conflict between the two countries, then, could threaten supplies of the grains, pushing up their costs and leading to a spike in already record-breaking global food prices.

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💬 Quote of the day

“Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.”

– Anne Lamott (an American novelist and non-fiction writer)
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