Why has the St. James’s Place share price crashed 30%, after FY results?

The St. James’s Place share price has just fallen off a cliff. What could have gone wrong in 2023 that’s so bad to make that happen?

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I was shocked to check on 2023 results from St. James’s Place (LSE: STJ), and find the share price fell 30% in morning trading.

Shares in the financial services firm had been soaring after the 2020 stock market crash. But they fell back in the last couple of years.

And now this, after results on 28 February, means a five-year fall of 56%. Ouch!

Disaster

The company has set aside a whopping £426m for potential refunds to clients who overpaid for fees and advice.

Oh, and the board has slashed the dividend, from 52.78p per share in 2022 to 22.83p. That’s a dividend yield of just 3.7% on the previous close, down from a forecast 8.5%. Did I already say ouch?

In the circumstances, I guess it could have been worse. I’m surprised the final 8p dividend wasn’t cut altogether.

It’s all about a growing number of customer complaints. Working with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the firm has come up with a figure it thinks will satisfy any claims. Perhaps disturbingly, CEO Mark FitzPatrick said that “where gaps in record-keeping mean that there is a lack of evidence of the delivery of ongoing servicing, we’ve refunded these charges to clients“.

He also says “We recognise that this is a disappointing outcome for everyone.” He’s on the nail with that one.

FY performance

This shock overshadows the actual 2023 performance, which looks fine.

We have a pre-tax underlying cash result of £483m, down a little from £485.5m in 2022. I’d say that’s good in the year we’ve just had.

We also see net inflows, which is more than a few competitors achieved. That helped bring total funds under management to £168bn, up from £148bn the year before.

And in all, I think any asset manager would be happy with results like this in the horror year that was 2023.

But then, that big client refund provision knocks it all down to a £9.9m loss after tax, on IFRS terms.

What to do?

The big question now is what should investors do? Prior to this shock, forecasts had the stock on a very low valuation.

We were looking at a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of nine for the current year, rising close to 10 for 2025. And analysts expect the big 2023 dividend to soften a little, but still deliver 7.4% by 2025.

I had St. James’s Place down as a candidate for my 2024 Stocks and Shares ISA for sure.

If this really is a one-off hit, the price fall might have made the stock a good long-term buy now. I mean, a payment for past overcharging shouldn’t affect the future business, right? It might put off some future customers, though.

Will I buy?

A number of other investment managers and insurance firms are also on my ISA list, without this uncertainty. So I don’t need to take the risk.

The stock could turn out to be a good buy now, but I’ll just sit back and watch.

Should you invest, the value of your investment may rise or fall and your capital is at risk. Before investing, your individual circumstances should be assessed. Consider taking independent financial advice.

Alan Oscroft has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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