Was investment in Fyffes a banana skin?

Q&A: Dominic Coyle answers your personal finance questions

Fyffes shareholders have received one share in each new spunout venture for every share they owned in the original Fyffes. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Fyffes shareholders have received one share in each new spunout venture for every share they owned in the original Fyffes. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

 

I have just reread an article you wrote in November in relation to Fyffes shares. I bought 2,000 Fyffes shares in December 2000 for £0.76 (each). At present I apparently now own: 2,000 Fyffes shares; 2,000 Total Produce shares; 2,000 Blackrock Int Land shares, and 2,000 Balmoral Int Land shares.

I am very confused about all these different shares that I now own. Could you please advise whether I have made any profit on these various holdings as you said you would in the article you wrote some months ago plus any advice on what I should do? Should I hold on to them or sell them all or some?

Mr M.K., email

There’s plenty of room for confusion when it comes to Fyffes and its various spin-offs. As your figures indicate, Fyffes shareholders have received one share in each new spunout venture for every share they owned in the original Fyffes. But, before we get down to the figures, it’s worth pointing out that you do not own 2,000 shares in Blackrock International Land AND 2,000 shares in Balmoral International Land.

Blackrock became Balmoral in October 2010. It later restructured and delisted so it is possible that you would have an old Blackrock share certificate and a newer Balmoral certificate but only the more recent one of these is now valid.

So, for your original purchase of 2,0000 Fyffes shares, you now own 6,000 shares – what’s not to like? Well, it’s not quite that straightforward, especially given the performance of Blackrock/ Balmoral.

Let’s look at the maths. You bought the 2,000 Fyffes shares for 76 old Irish pence in 2000. First we need to convert this into euro. Converting to euro involves dividing the punt price by 0.787564 – it’s scary that this six-digit conversion factor comes readily to mind after all these years. Anyway, that gives you a euro purchase price of 96.5 cent per Fyffes share.

I don’t intend going into the minutiae of the answer I gave last November. Suffice to summarise that in May 2006, Fyffes decided to spin off its property portfolio in Blackrock International Land. The following year it decided also to spin Total Produce from the original group. Each of these events must be taken in sequence.

Revenue has determined that, after the Blackrock deal, 77 per cent of the company value remained with Fyffes and 23 per cent with Blackrock.

In real terms this means that, at a December 2000 purchase price of 96.5 cent, each Fyffes share after the Blackrock deal was deemed to have cost you 74.3 cent. This is the new base cost of your new Fyffes shares. The base cost for the Blackrock shares is 22.2 cent.

We will return to those Blackrock shares. But, for Fyffes that is not the end of the story because the subsequent spinout of its fruit distribution and fresh produce business to become Total Produce changes the base cost once again.

Again, Revenue, which determines these things, stipulated that in the Total Produce deal, 55 per cent of the value of the company stayed with Fyffes and 45 per cent moved to Total Produce.

Taking your post-Blackrock base cost for the Fyffes shares of 74.3 cent, the position after the Total Produce deal is that the remaining Fyffes shares are deemed to have cost you 40.9 cent, with the balance of 33.4 cent being the base cost of Total Produce.

So, of your original 96.5 cent purchase price, what is left of Fyffes is determined to have cost 40.9 cent, Total Produce 33.4 cent and Blackrock 22.2 cent.

So where does that leave you now?

Well, Fyffes is currently trading just below €1.50 a share and Total Produce is trading at more than €1.40, so you are certainly doing well enough on both of those – though, having held the shares for 15 years, the gains are respectable rather than spectacular.

The situation with Blackrock is less favourable. As I mentioned, the company changed its name to Balmoral in 2010 and then, a year later, was restructured and taken off the stock market.

Its shares now trade unofficially on what is called the “grey market”, which for Balmoral is operated through Davy. As of last week, the shares were worth 2.5 cent, well shy of your base cost.

In sum, your current profit on Fyffes – as of last Friday – was €1.107 a share. For Total Produce, the profit is €1.126 a share while you are nursing a 19.7 cent a share loss on Blackrock/Balmoral.

Before we finish, we need to go back and allow for indexation, at least on those shares that have made a profit. Indexation is a multiple that adjusts the purchase price upwards to take account of inflation for the purposes of capital gains, at least until the end of 2002 when it was abolished by then finance minister Charlie McCreevy.

In your case, the multiple for assets acquired in December 2000 is 1.144. However, you cannot use indexation to increase the size of a loss, so it would not apply to you Blackrock/Balmoral shares.

Using the capital gains tax indexation multiple of 1.144, your adjusted purchase prices for the Total Produce shares is 38.2 cent a share and, for the remaining Fyffes shares, it is 46.7896 cent, which would round up to 46.8 cent a share.

The effect is that you reduce your capital gain on Fyffes from €1.107 a share to €104.8 cent, and on Total Produce from €1.126 a share to €1.078.

Should you sell or hold? I’m not an authorised financial adviser, so I cannot say. What I do know is that people often move to recoup their purchase price if possible so that they are playing just with their gain. Your initial outlay, in euro terms, was €1,960.

Some others tend to cut their losses. That would mean dumping Balmoral and offsetting the loss against gains elsewhere. However, your current holding in Balmoral is worth just €50 and there would be little left after broker charges. Anyway, that is a property play and many argue that that sector still appears to have some upside as it recovers from the crash.

As you can see, there are no easy “correct” answers: you just have to decide for yourself on your best course of action.

Do remember that you can make a gain of €1,270 after costs in any year without being liable to capital gains tax. Anything over that is taxed at 33 per cent.

Send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or email dcoyle@irishtimes. com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

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