Sasol’s record share plunge on Monday, coming as the oil price slumped and just days after the company credit rating was cut to junk by Moody’s Investors Service, is raising concern among investors that it may need to hold a rights offer as it struggles with a debt burden of about $8-billion.
The fuel and chemicals producer, South Africa’s biggest company by sales, delayed an investor call scheduled for Tuesday until March 17, noting that its oil price exposure for the rest of the fiscal year is not hedged. While the company has assumed oil will stay in a range of $50 to $70 a barrel, Brent crude fell as low as $31 on Monday. Its stock fell 47% by the close in Johannesburg, giving it a market value of R53-billion.
“If oil prices stay close to current market levels for a long period of time, Sasol may have to consider a rights issue to fund cash shortfalls,” said Asief Mohamed, founder and chief investment officer at Aeon Investment Management in Cape Town, which holds stock in the company.
Sasol’s plan to expand its business abroad with the Lake Charles Chemicals Project in Louisiana has turned sentiment against the company, with costs surging about 50% to almost $13-billion. The company has also disclosed mismanagement in the way the operation was run, leading to the departure of its co-chief executive officers in October.
“We will continue to keep all of our options under regular review in these challenging market conditions,” said Sasol spokesperson Alex Anderson when asked if there would be a rights offer.
The company’s borrowing costs have surged. The yield on $750-million of notes due 2028 climbed for a fourth day on Monday, jumping 93 basis points to 6.61%, the highest since January 2019. The company’s net debt was 125.2-billion rand as of June 30, more than twice the level two years earlier.
“For Sasol the oil-price collapse means that their already fragile balance sheet will come under even more pressure,” said Michele Santangelo, a money manager at Independent Securities in Johannesburg. “The longer the oil price stays suppressed the more pressure Sasol will have to review and restructure their operations.”
Rescheduling the conference call “allows more time to assess the impact of these latest developments on the market and Sasol in particular,” the company said Monday in a statement. “Balance-sheet protection remains a key priority.”