Top 10 ASX winners and losers for the quarter
The S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 4.1% in March after tumbling 5.5% and 2.5% in January and February respectively, reducing its loss for the first quarter of the year to 4%.
Which stocks gained the most?
Top 10 share price gains
Primary Health Care
Primary Health Care
Primary Health Care (ASX: PRY), with pathology and medical centres across Australia, attracted the attention of China’s Jangho Group, which bought an 11.17% stake in the company two weeks ago.
Jangho has existing investments in the Australian healthcare sector, including the delisted Vision Eye Institute.
For Primary’s first-half results, released in February, the company reported a 28.5% higher net profit after tax (NPAT) of $68.6m, and managed to cut its debt.
At the time, managing director Peter Gregg said the second half would be stronger, supported by initiatives that boost profit margin.
The group recently sold its Medical Director business for $155m to improve its balance sheet and “recycle” capital for future growth.
Mineral Resources (ASX: MIN) provides mining infrastructure services, including crushing and mineral processing, mine site services, and rail and ports logistics.
In addition, it receives a share of the product profit.
The company paid shareholders a fully franked interim dividend of 8.5 cents a share in March, 60% more than what it promised last November, after first-half statutory NPAT soared 259% to $48.2m.
The profit was higher due to an impairment charge of $15.9m included in the previous year’s earnings, the company said.
For the six months to December 31, 2015, the group made a record 5.9 million wet metric tonnes of iron ore exports.
Engineering contractor CIMIC Group (ASX:CIM) had a busy first quarter after winning six contracts, including constructing customs clearance buildings in Hong Kong and a hospital in New Zealand, and building roads and rails in the ACT, Victoria and Queensland.
In February, the group said its 2015 full-year NPAT grew 20% to $520.4m, which was at the top end of guidance.
CIMIC expects to deliver NPAT of $520m to $580m this year.
In addition, the company is close to taking full control of mining services group Sedgman (ASX:SDM) ,having acquired more than 96% of Sedgman as of March 18.
Gold miner St Barbara (ASX:SMB) was one of the five companies admitted into the ASX 200 index last month after a regular quarterly review of the index members.
An entry to the ASX 200 often attracts buying from investors, particularly fund managers who are required to invest only in larger stocks, as well as funds that specifically track the performance of the nation’s benchmark stock gauge.
Australian gold miners had benefited from higher gold prices as market volatility across the world earlier this year prompted some investors to turn to assets perceived as safe havens.
The spot price of gold leaped 16% over the past three months, according to Bloomberg data.
Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s on March 29 upgraded St Barbara’srating to B from B- with a stable outlook, after the company “strongly boosted its free cash flows” and repaid debt.
The miner returned to the black in the half year to December 31 with a statutory NPAT of $77m, versus a $20m loss in the previous year, due to strong operating performance.
BlueScope Steel (ASX:BSL)said in February underlying earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) in the second half ending June will be 60% higher than the same time last year, as it improves processes and cuts cost.
The steelmaker made the statement as its first-half NPAT surged 116% to $200.1m,
while underlying NPAT grew 47% to $119m. Underlying EBIT was 35% higher at $230.1m.
After ending the 2015 calendar year 58% lower, shares in Mesoblast (ASX:MSB) ,picked up in the first three months of 2016 with a 39% increase.
Much of the share price loss last year was due to lacklustre response to the regenerative medicine company’s listing in the US in late November.
In February,Mesoblast said it had narrowed first-half loss by 18% , while the launch of a stem cell product in Japan that month allowed it to start receiving royalties from its licensee.
The group has also successfully patented technologies that treat diabetes and rheumatic disease, in addition to seeing positive results from various clinical trials.
Investors reacted positively to South32’s (ASX: S32) restructuring initiatives announced on February 4 and 25 that aim to reduce costs at its mines in Australia, South Africa and Colombia.
The diversified miner, spun off from BHP Billiton (ASX: BHP) last May, has said it wants to cut capital expenditure by US$218m and save US$300m in controllable costs for the 2016 financial year (FY16).
South32 made a statutory loss of US$1.7bn for the six months to December 31, due to impairment charges of US$1.7bn.
Fortescue Metals Group
Shares in Fortescue Metals Group (ASX: FMG) had their highest close so far this year on March 7 as iron ore surged 19% on that day to US$63.74 a dry metric tonne.
Its share price had since retreated, paring the stock’s three-month gain.
While the iron ore price has eased to US$53.75 a tonne on March 31, the commodity is up 23% from the end of last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Fortescue said on March 8 that Vale, the world’s largest iron ore producer, may buy between 5% and 15% of the Australian mineras the two groups look at forming joint ventures.
They may set up one or more joint ventures to produce “attractive and competitive” new iron ore blends that cater to the Chinese steel industry. Vale may also invest in Fortescue’s existing or future mining assets.
Fortescue’s half-year NPAT dropped only 4% to US$319m despite a 31% slump in revenue, as cost reductions helped offset a huge decline in iron ore prices,the company said in February .
Shares in Medibank Private (ASX: MPL) have been trending higher after the private health insurer raised its full-year operating profit estimate in January.
The company said operating profit for its health insurance business could reach $470m in FY16, instead of $370m stated last August driven by strong results in the first six months,.
This week, Medibank announced that its succession plan is in place with the appointment of Craig Drummond, who will replace George Savvides as its new chief executive beginning July 4.
On March 1, Beach Energy (ASX: BPT) completed the merger with Drillsearch Energy, which is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the group.
Beach Energy said last October when it announced the merger that the deal would help the combined group save $20m a year.
Which stocks lost the most?
Top 10 share price falls
Programmed Maintenance Services
Liquefied Natural Gas
Bendigo and Adelaide Bank