Such levels of price volatility are more usually associated with Silicon Valley start-ups rather than a UK-based postal service, so naturally, they catch the headlines. Another reason the whipsawing price action is widely reported is that a large number of retail investors bought Royal Mail shares when it was first listed in 2013.
The market has something for everyone. Many of those retail investors have been left wondering if now is the time to sell Royal Mail shares or if the worst is over and they should keep hold of them. Then there are short-term speculators looking to trade the noise and run strategies to catch upward and downward price moves. In the background, long-term investors with a buy-and-hold approach, have been taking positions with an aim of riding out the short-term fluctuations.
This article will outline the ways to make an informed decision on the firm’s valuation and how to find a reliable broker to help you turn your plan into action.
Overview of Royal Mail
Royal Mail can trace its roots back as far as 1512 but has only been publicly listed since 2013. Its move to the stock market was the big UK privatisation story of the decade and one that stoked considerable controversy.
Following a tried and tested approach, the government floated the stock at a discount large enough to ensure the offering was fully taken up — a damp squib being politically unappealing. This meant all buyers, including large City institutions, benefitted from the government’s generosity.
Source: Yahoo News
Some of the day-one investors sold their positions and locked in a small profit. Others held on to the positions and might not have bargained for the rollercoaster ride that followed. In a report released in November 2020, the general public and Royal Mail staff were reported to still own 25% of the company.
Royal Mail Shares: The Basics
Royal Mail is listed on the London Stock Exchange. The firm currently has a market capitalisation of around £5bn. With membership of the FTSE 250 index, Royal Mail trades under ticker RMG.
Royal Mail – Daily Candle price chart
Royal Mail shares buy or sell?
Those asking the question, ‘is it a good idea to buy Royal Mail shares?’ need to establish whether the firm is undervalued or not. There are various factors in play:
- A history of high price volatility — There is little reason to believe price volatility levels are going to drop off in the near future. Those taking positions would need to be prepared for a bumpy ride.
- Under new management — Controversial CEO Rico Back left his position in May 2020 and wasn’t replaced until January 2021. New boss Simon Thompson has an impressive track record, including stints at market-darlings Ocado and Apple. He also has experience of using digital technologies to improve work processes, but just having someone at the helm will delight shareholders.
- Political overhang — The Labour Party manifesto of 2019 included plans to renationalise the firm. While the party failed to win the election, the fact that UK politics is a two-horse race means the chance of it happening in the future can’t be dismissed. What this would mean for shareholders is unclear.
- Dividends — Royal Mail is one of the best dividend stocks in the FTSE. In 2019, the dividend yield was a jaw-dropping 10% and while other firms withheld dividends in 2020, Royal Mail still paid a yield of 5.60%. This makes the firm particularly attractive to large institutions such as pension funds.
- Restructuring — A legacy of the firm’s former life as a nationalised entity is that its work practices are going through a multi-year restructuring process. This is costly, a distraction for management who have to devote time to looking inwards rather than outwards, and challenged by the strong union representation among the workforce. In June 2020, the firm announced one in five managerial jobs were to go and more shake-ups can be expected. Whether they go according to plan is another matter.
- Shareholder breakdown — More than 25% of Royal Mail shares are held by retail investors. For many, Royal Mail is the only stock they own and their willingness to actively buy or sell Royal Mail shares is hard to predict. At the other end of the spectrum, more than 50% of Royal Mail shares are owned by just eight investment companies. That buying power means those firms will have considerable influence on decisions made by the board of directors.
- Strong Technicals — From a Technical Analysis perspective, recent Royal Mail share price action can only be described as bullish. The Weekly Candle price chart shows the share price demonstrating considerable upward momentum. Both of the 20 and 50 Simple Moving Averages have cut through the 100 SMA to the upside in the last six months.
Royal Mail Fundamentals Overview
*68% of retail CFD accounts lose money
Steps to Buy and Sell Royal Mail Shares
Once you’ve made your decision to buy or sell Royal Mail shares, the process of putting your cash to work is incredibly straightforward. Online brokers have significantly changed the investment industry and represent one of the cheapest ways to buy Royal Mail shares.
Step one is to ensure you’re using a regulated broker, one that operates under licence from at least one of the below tier-one regulators.
- The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
- The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)
- The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
- Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC)
All of the brokers in the below table meet these criteria and have been operating for many years, making them trustworthy. Their success also comes down to the additional support services they offer clients, including free research and learning to assist with the skills needed to trade.
It’s possible to access and manage your account in a variety of ways, including on desktops or mobile apps.
Even if you’re still just considering whether to pull the trigger or not, then the risk-free demo accounts on offer can introduce you to the trading experience and offer the chance to trade Royal Mail shares in a simulated environment.
1. Research Royal Mail Shares
Buyers of Royal Mail shares tend to have a long-term investment horizon. The restructuring of the firm is a multi-year project, meaning the returns generated from the overhaul are unlikely to come through in the very near future.
As a result, a lot of the research on the firm focuses on the likelihood of that proving successful or not and the time it might take. The good news is that good brokers have an abundance of research notes, charting tools and news reports to help those buying Royal Mail shares make an informed decision.
The following case study gives an insight into fundamental analysis and the life-cycle of a medium-term trade. The piece explores the types of resources used to spot the investment opportunity using publicly available information and how that plan was put into action.
2. Find a Broker
The research on offer can vary depending on the broker. Some brokers prioritise client support while others provide an adequate supply of materials and instead compete on price.
Opening a demo account is a good way to establish which approach is a good fit for you. It’s also a good idea to try out demo accounts with several brokers. Registering to buy Royal Mail shares in a virtual account only requires an email address and takes less than 60 seconds.
3. Open & Fund an Account
Upgrading to a full account and depositing funds requires a little more online form filling. Regulated brokers have a duty of care to their clients, which means they’ll ask Know Your Client (KYC) questions to build up a profile for you. This ensures they treat you in accordance with regulatory guidelines.
After the form filling is completed, it’s a case of wiring funds to your new account. Brokers offer a variety of payment methods, including credit/debit cards and bank transfers, so the process has a feel of any other sort of online shopping. One thing to watch out for is that some of the payment methods are cheaper and quicker than others, checking the T&Cs can avoid unnecessary charges being applied.
4. Set Order Types
The trading monitor on your broker platform will offer up a range of data fields so that you can build your instruction to buy or sell Royal Mail shares.
Most brokers offer several order types, which build trading decisions into the system so you can trade in or out of positions automatically. These help mitigate risk and mean you don’t have to watch the markets 24/7.
- Market Order — An instruction to open or add to a position in Royal Mail shares at current price levels.
- Limit Order — An instruction to automatically open or add to your position if price reaches a certain price level.
- Stop Loss — A useful risk management tool, this automated instruction will close out part or all of your position if price reaches a certain level.
- Take Profits — A built-in instruction to reduce your position and lock in some cash profits if price reaches a certain level.
These other order types are optional but worth learning about because they can save you time and money. Another top tip is to check if stop-losses or take profit orders are default settings on your account. If that’s the case, and you don’t override them, then you might check your account to find you unintentionally traded out of a position.
5. Select and Buy/Sell Royal Mail Shares
Once you’ve decided to buy Royal Mail shares, the final step is to enter the amount you want to buy and click the order confirmation button. Even if you’re looking to buy Royal Mail shares for the long-haul, there are ways to optimise your trade entry point, as explained in this article on the best time to trade.
After trading, be sure to check your positions. Even experienced traders make ‘fat finger’ errors which are best corrected before price moves too far.
Best Brokers to Trade Royal Mail Shares:
eToro: 68% of retail CFD accounts lose moneyTake a look
Tickmill: FCA RegulatedTake a look
IG: Over 16k stocks to tradeTake a look
The length of time you expect to hold your Royal Mail shares will determine whether it’s more cost-effective to buy/sell the shares outright or in Contract for Difference (CFD) form. This research report on the pros and cons of CFD vs Share Dealing goes into that in more detail. If you intend to hold your investment for months and years rather than days or weeks, then buying Royal Mail shares outright will help you avoid overnight financing charges, which can stack up in the long-run.
Fees When Trading Royal Mail Shares
Competition between online brokers is fierce, which has led to the costs associated with share dealing being driven down. It’s still important to make sure you’re familiar with the T&Cs so that you don’t rack up administrative charges that you could otherwise avoid. Fees to watch out for include:
- Payment processing charges — Most brokers don’t charge on deposits, but some do apply a fee on cash withdrawals.
- Third-party fees — These might apply if you choose a particular payment method. They don’t go to the broker but do need to be factored in.
- Commissions — Few online brokers charge a separate dealing commission when buying shares, but it is something to double-check.
- Bid-offer spread — Instead of charging commission, most brokers make their money on the bid-offer spread, which is the difference between buying and selling prices. This does make price comparison easier to do and you’ll note some brokers have tighter spreads than others.
- FX conversion — Your brokerage account will be denominated in a particular base currency. If that is different from the currency of the payment you use to fund it, then there will be charges relating to converting from one currency to another. One way around this is to use a broker that offers accounts in your base currency.
- Stamp Duty — Outright Royal Mail purchases are subject to SDRT.
- Inactivity fees — Some, but not all, brokers apply charges on your account. These kick in if your account is dormant for a period of time. Inactivity can be defined in different ways with some brokers requiring a trade to be executed. Other brokers don’t charge an inactivity fee and Plus500 takes another approach. Consider logging onto your account with sufficient ‘activity’ to avoid the charge.
- Financing costs — Buying and selling shares outright avoids the overnight financing charges associated with trading CFDs.
|Live Account Fee||No charge||No charge||No charge||No charge|
|Demo Account Fee||No charge||No charge||No charge||No charge|
|Bid Offer Spread – RM shares||0.52p||Variable||0.46p||No market|
|Cash Deposit Fee||No charge||N/A||No charge||No charge|
|Cash Withdrawal Fee||Yes – $5 per transaction||N/A||No charge||No charge|
|Inactivity Fee||Yes – $10 per month after 12 months inactivity||Yes – $10 per month after 3 months inactivity||Yes – $10 per month after 3 months inactivity||Yes – $50 per quarter after 3 months inactivity|
|FX Conversion Fee||Offers accounts in USD, only||Offers accounts in USD, GBP and EUR||Offers accounts in 14 base currencies incl. USD, GBP, EUR||Offers accounts in USD, GBP, EUR, CHF|
|Minimum Deposit||$200 (or equivalent)||$100 (or equivalent)||$250 (or equivalent)||$100 (or equivalent)|
Royal Mail’s large retail investor base means it’s likely to remain in the headlines for some time. Opinion is divided as to whether Royal Mail is a ‘buy’ or a ‘sell’ and the wild share price moves reflect this.
There are a large number of shareholders waiting for price to recover to levels where they can exit their legacy positions, but those who are new to the situation and not holding loss-making positions face a more exciting proposition. Nothing is ever guaranteed but now looks as good a time as any to step in and buy Royal Mail shares.