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Can Cobalt International Energy Inc (CIE) Improve Your Portfolio Returns?

Andrew Carroll

For Cobalt International Energy Inc’s (NYSE:CIE) shareholders, and also potential investors in the stock, understanding how the stock’s risk and return characteristics can impact your portfolio is important. Every stock in the market is exposed to market risk, which arises from macroeconomic factors such as economic growth and geo-political tussles just to name a few. This is measured by its beta. Not every stock is exposed to the same level of market risk, and the market as a whole represents a beta value of one. Any stock with a beta of greater than one is considered more volatile than the market, and those with a beta less than one is generally less volatile.

See our latest analysis for CIE

What does CIE’s beta value mean?

Cobalt International Energy’s five-year beta of 1.62 means that the company’s value will swing up by more than the market during prosperous times, but also drop down by more in times of downturns. This level of volatility indicates bigger risk for investors who passively invest in the stock market index. According to this value of beta, CIE can help magnify your portfolio return, especially if it is predominantly made up of low-beta stocks. If the market is going up, a higher exposure to the upside from a high-beta stock can push up your portfolio return.

Could CIE’s size and industry cause it to be more volatile?

A market capitalisation of USD $14.22M puts CIE in the category of small-cap stocks, which tends to possess higher beta than larger companies. In addition to size, CIE also operates in the oil, gas and consumable fuels industry, which has commonly demonstrated strong reactions to market-wide shocks. As a result, we should expect higher beta for small-cap stocks in a cyclical industry compared to larger stocks in a defensive industry. This is consistent with CIE’s individual beta value we discussed above. Fundamental factors can also drive the cyclicality of the stock, which we will take a look at next.

NYSE:CIE Income Statement Dec 7th 17

How CIE’s assets could affect its beta

During times of economic downturn, low demand may cause companies to readjust production of their goods and services. It is more difficult for companies to lower their cost, if the majority of these costs are generated by fixed assets. Therefore, this is a type of risk which is associated with higher beta. I examine CIE’s ratio of fixed assets to total assets to see whether the company is highly exposed to the risk of this type of constraint. Given a fixed to total assets ratio of over 30%, CIE seems to be a company which invests a big chunk of its capital on assets that cannot be scaled down on short-notice. As a result, this aspect of CIE indicates a higher beta than a similar size company with a lower portion of fixed assets on their balance sheet. Similarly, CIE’s beta value conveys the same message.

What this means for you:

Are you a shareholder? You may reap the gains of CIE’s returns in times of an economic boom. Though the business does have higher fixed cost than what is considered safe, during times of growth, consumer demand may be high enough to not warrant immediate concerns. However, during a downturn, a more defensive stock can cushion the impact of this risk. For next steps, take a look at CIE’s outlook to see what analysts are expecting for the stock on our free analysis plaform here.

Are you a potential investor? Before you buy CIE, you should factor how your portfolio currently moves with the wider market, and where we are in the economic cycle. This stock could be an outperformer during times of growth, and it may be worth taking a deeper dive into the fundamentals to crystalize your thoughts on CIE. You can examine these factors in our free fundamental research report for CIE here.


To help readers see pass the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned.