The U.K. shocked the financial world by voting to leave the European Union, and stocks crashed in response on Friday. Losses in the U.S. were relatively small at between 3% and 4% for major market benchmarks, but international markets posted drops in the high single-digit to low double-digit percentage range.
Uncertainty about how Great Britain will exit from the EU framework is likely to persist for a long time, given the years-long process that most anticipate. That, in turn, will have a lasting impact on the decision-making process of corporate executives across the globe.
Even amid all the falling stocks on Friday, a few companies stood out as being particularly hard hit. Priceline Group (NASDAQ:BKNG), Royal Bank of Scotland (NYSE:RBS), and ArcelorMittal (NYSE:MT) were among the worst performers on the day.
Priceline faces an uncertain travel environment
Priceline Group dropped 11% as investors reassessed the likelihood of continued growth in the international travel industry. Priceline has done an exceptional job of cultivating its international business, and that has had huge benefits in helping it compete more effectively against its more domestically focused rivals.
Today, though, Priceline's international exposure worked against it, and investors now see the company as being more vulnerable than its peers to a possible slowdown in global travel. If the negative economic impacts of Brexit pan out the way many fear they will, then Priceline could suffer a slowdown in growth that will force shareholders to reassess the company's long-term strategic plans for continued expansion.
U.K. banks take a big Brexit hit
Royal Bank of Scotland plummeted 27%, and investors pointed to the bank's proximity to the economic fallout from the Brexit vote as instrumental in the stock's decline. Banks throughout the U.K. have played an instrumental role in driving efforts to bolster economic growth, not only within the nation, but across Europe,. After the Brexit vote, it's unclear to what extent these banks will have to pull back from their European exposure.
Investors aren't likely to have clear answers for months, if not years, as the U.K. and other European nations negotiate the exact terms of the island nation's withdrawal from the union. However, the plunge in the value of the British pound will act as a headwind against growth for U.K.-based banks like Royal Bank of Scotland. Until matters clear up, the financial giant and its peers will face pressure indefinitely into the future.
Kicking the steel industry while it's down
Finally, ArcelorMittal dropped 16%. The steelmaker has already had to deal with extremely tough conditions in the global steel market, with key players like China reducing demand because of pullbacks in its construction and infrastructure activity. Shareholders fear that ArcelorMittal will face an even tougher time if Europe starts to slow down more extensively because of the Brexit vote, and today's drop in commodity prices signals exactly that expected response.
Given that the company was already dealing with some difficult situations, ArcelorMittal's big drop today indicates just how little confidence shareholders have in the steelmaker's ability to weather more storms in its quest for financial strength.