Will BP Plc, Tesco Plc & Anglo American Plc Ever Return To Previous Highs?

It’s no surprise, given the $55bn price tag and recent drop in crude prices, that shares of BP (LSE: BP) still trade for 45% less than they did before the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. While charges related to the spill aren’t finished yet, we at least appear to be in the denouement. And crude prices 44% higher than mid-January lows suggest the worst of that crisis may be passing as well.

As BP comes out of the shadow of these twin crises, it’s positioned to perform well in the coming years. The oil spill forced the company to sell high-cost-of-production assets while they still fetched great prices when crude prices were above $100/bbl. The new, slimmer BP is now targeting around $50/bbl as its break-even prices.

However, if crude prices remain at this level for the long term, BP will see little growth and I can’t see share prices returning to their pre-spill peak. The shale revolution in the US has many industry figures reckoning $60/bbl could be a new ceiling on prices, at which point BP will be little more than a great income share.

A strong showing over Christmas and slowing market share loss have caused some Tesco (LSE: TSCO) bulls in the City to start spelling out their case for a turnaround. Although the 1.3% rise in like-for-like sales over the Christmas period was heartening, I still don’t see a way for shares to regain the lustre they once held.

Mountain of woes

Even bullish analysts would have a difficult time describing Tesco as a growth share thanks to continued competition from the traditional grocers, the German low-cost rivals, and online-only outfits such as Ocado and Amazon. And with shares trading at a full 22 times 2017 forecast earnings, it’s hardly a bargain value investment.

Add to these woes a mountain of debt expected to be in the range of £18bn at year-end and the story becomes even worse for the struggling grocer. Unfortunately for Tesco, the grocery industry may have changed forever with the UK success of Aldi and Lidl plus changing customer habits. Unless the company can find a way to claw back market share while simultaneously raising margins, I don’t see a way for share prices to reach their previous levels.

The incredible shrinking shares

Off more than 85% from post-Financial Crisis highs reached in 2011, the struggling miner Anglo American (LSE: AAL) may well be the least likely of the bunch to return to once-commanding heights.

Anglo is seeking to dispose of more than half of its 2013 assets and cut its workforce by over 60%. These moves will make revenues a mere shadow of the numbers posted during the boom years, but they’re necessary to rein-in sky-high costs and ballooning debt. Net debt at the end of 2015 was $12.9bn, and only stayed flat during the year due to $1.7bn worth of asset sales.

If prices of major commodities stay low for the foreseeable future, which appears likely as demand is stagnant and supply not falling fast enough, Anglo American will continue shrinking. With revenue continuing to decrease thanks to low prices and fewer assets, I don’t see a way for the shares to rebound from their current £5 price tag to 2011 highs of over £34 per share.

Internal problems aside, the sheer size of these three companies will preclude shares from growing at astronomical rates in the coming years. For investors seeking growth to juice their portfolio’s returns, I recommend reading the Motley Fool’s latest free report, A Top Growth Share.

This classic British brand’s shares have already increased in value 375% in the past five years, and the Motley Fool’s crack analysts believe the company could triple again in the next decade.

To read your free, no obligation copy of this report simply follow this link.

Ian Pierce has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.