The FTSE 100 rose by around 14 per cent in 2021, but a handful of companies did much better than that. I list them in reverse order.
Honourable mention— Sage Group
I mention this company because it was beaten into sixth place by a very small margin. Shares in Sage Group (LON: SGE) rose by just under 47 per cent in 2021.
The pandemic had a positive impact on entrepreneurial activity; at least there were 14 per cent more startups in 2020 than in 2019; data is not yet available for 2021. Indeed, March 2020 saw more startups formed than in any previous month since records began in 1989. That is good news for Sage Group, which sells payroll and accounting software to small and medium-sized companies. It also switched to the cloud — SaaS (software as a service.) Although I don’t give the company too much credit for this switch, the need to adopt the cloud was obvious. Even so, the move seems to have paid off, with encouraging results for the year to September 2021.
Number five: WPP
It has been quite the turnaround at WPP (LON: WPP). When it had its well-publicised spat with former CEO and founder Martin Sorell, a narrative did the rounds that WPP, the advertising, communications and PR agency, didn’t get digital, especially social media. Yet, WPP shares rose by just over 47 per cent in 2021. They are down some 31 per cent from the all-time high set in 2016, but considering how a particular former CEO seemed keen to write its obituary, I think WPP has exceeded expectations.
Disruptive technologies can decimate an established company, but WPP has shown (as indeed has Sage) that it is possible to embrace disruptive shocks and turn them into a triumph.
Number four: Croda International
Shares in speciality chemicals company Croda International (LON: CRDA) rose by a smidgeon less than 50 per cent last year. The company recently announced a deal to sell its Performance Technologies and Industrial Chemicals (PTIC) to Cargill for £778 million) and will focus on consumer care and life sciences.
But markets are especially encouraged by its supply arrangement deal with Pfizer for Lipid systems — the company recently revised its estimated sales from the contract to $125 million in 2021.
The company has a hefty P/E, but it supplies many of the world’s most famous brands including Unilever, and L’Oreal.
Number three — Glencore
Shares in Glencore (LON: GLEN) rose by around 57 per cent in 2021.
Glencore sits in two camps. First, it’s a miner and could well benefit from the copper market, which is seeing rapid growth.
But the company also has its trading business — and this side of the business is turning heads at the moment.
Number two Meggitt PLC
Shares were up 57 per cent in Meggitt (LON: MGGT), which specialises in components and sub-systems for the aerospace, defence and selected energy markets.
One of its strengths is its ongoing revenue from the commercial aftermarket of sold planes. But the big driver of the Meggitt share price has been the offer from Parker Hannifin to buy the company for £6.3 billion. The deal is currently with the The Competition and Markets Authority, and we will know whether they are okaying the deal in March. The company is currently valued at £5.81 billion.
Number one: Ashtead Group
More specifically, the company supplies traffic cones, cranes and other equipment. The pandemic helped boost the company as it provided equipped for Covid testing centres.
Profits before taxation at Ashtead for its first half to October 31st were up 42 per cent over the same period the year before — it was a record period for the company.