April 12, 2021

Study reveals North-South divide in financial recovery of UK’s largest companies

Exclusive new data from Stockopedia.com reveals an enduring North-South divide in pandemic financial performance, with listed companies in the North of England showing signs of a longer and slower recovery than those registered in the South.

Stock market valuations have fluctuated throughout 2020 as economies and investors worldwide react to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some companies have experienced an uplift in financial performance during COVID-19, many more have struggled to stay afloat.

But where has seen the most dramatic declines in collective share price value of some of the UK’s largest businesses? And where is experiencing the slowest recovery?

To answer this important question, Stockopedia.com – the UK’s leading stock market research service – has analysed its exclusive market data to compare the average share price performance of publicly listed companies in the English regions and the biggest UK cities over the course of 2020.

Looking at a regional level in England, public companies in the East of England have seen the best stock market performance compared to pre-pandemic levels (+1.46 percent).

Surprisingly, the East of England is the only English region to see an increase in the average share price of its registered companies over the course of 2020 and show positive signs of a recovery in Q4 – albeit minimal.

Companies in the East of England also saw the least dramatic (but still a considerable) fall in average share price value at the end of March (down -24.09 percent). The South West and West Midlands saw the largest declines, down by –38.73 percent and –39.55 percent respectively.

Notably, the East of England is home to both Tesco and Ocado Group which have benefited significantly from increased spending on groceries and the boom in online shopping during the pandemic. The East of England also has several listed healthcare and technology companies registered in the region, helping to offset declines in other sectors’ share prices, such as EasyJet in Luton and JD Wetherspoon in Watford.

The East Midlands is ranked second place, with the share prices of listed companies in the region performing on average -9.91 percent lower than on 1st January 2020.

London and the South West closely follow in third and fourth place, with performance down by -10.32 percent and -10.94 percent respectively. London, by far, has the most publicly listed companies on the London Stock Exchange (565) across a diverse set of industries.

A longer and slower recovery in the North

By comparison, listed companies in the North of England haven’t fared so well and are experiencing a longer and slower recovery to pre-pandemic share price values than those in the South.

The worst hit region in England is the North East, with the collective share price value of its listed companies down -23.72 percent in Q4 compared to year start. This figure has improved slightly from Q3 (-25.98 percent), but it remains significantly lower than other regions, even in the North of England.

Of the 23 listed companies in the North East of England, six are in the financial sector (especially lending and real estate) which has seen a turbulent 2020 thanks to uncertainties over COVID-19, Brexit and the U.S elections. Consumer cyclical companies based in the region – such as SCS Group, Vertu Motors and Greggs – have also been hit hard by a drop in spending confidence and disposable income.

Diving deeper into the data and analysing at a city level, companies in Sheffield have seen the strongest recovery outside of London when compared against their average share prices on 1st January 2020. But, importantly, share prices are yet to fully recover and remain down by –4.34 percent.

The best performers in Sheffield during 2020 include ITM Power (renewable energy), Benchmark Holdings (biotech) and Fulcrum Utility Services (utilities).

Leicester and Glasgow are ranked in second and third position, with average company share prices down 12.11 and 13.02 percent respectively in Q4. While this performance is still troubling, both cities have seen promising improvements in the second half of the year.

Perhaps their diverse range of industries listed on the London Stock Exchange, including healthcare, technology, retail and finance, are helping protect their local economies (to an extent) against changes in market confidence.

At the other end of the rankings, publicly listed companies in Birmingham and Leeds have been slower to recover to pre-COVID-19 performance levels, with Q4 share prices still down by 25 percent and 20.70 percent respectively.

National Express Group and Mitchells and Butlers, based in Birmingham, have been hit the hardest financially in the city during the pandemic and their share prices show no signs of improvement in the near future. The performance of Birmingham-based Tandem Group (sports, leisure and mobility products) is another story though, with its share price in Q4 up 225 percent compared to year start – impressive!

You can explore the findings in more detail here.

Edward Croft, CEO of Stockopedia.com commented on the findings:

“Covid-19 brought the most volatile stock market environment we’ve seen in years, and with it some clear sector winners and losers. But the virus has also been hitting some regions harder and longer than others. This study shows the impact this has had on the typical company’s share price across regions, and the regional disparity is clear to see.”