After a few straight weeks of gains for the OMX Stockholm 30 (INDEX: ^OMXS30), the Swedish index took a breather this week, sliding 1.3% by week's end.
Leading the way down was global truck giant AB Volvo (NASDAQOTH:VOLVY), which announced a new 5 billion kronor restructuring plan. The scheme is aimed at cutting about 4 billion kronor in costs by 2015, but it also underscores the tough times companies like Volvo are seeing as the European economy continues to limp along.
Though shareholders probably weren't cheering the 6%-plus loss for the stock this week, it's not necessarily all bad news. Taking a longer-term view, making the company more efficient now could position it well to rake in larger profits when the economic environment finally gets brighter.
If misery loves company...
At least Volvo wasn't alone in watching its stock slump on a restructuring-plan announcement. The stock of industrial powerhouse Sandvik AB (NASDAQOTH: SDVKF) also slumped during the week, shedding 6.2% by week's end.
While the general global economic sluggishness is certainly an issue for Sandvik, the more specific slowdown in mining is affecting the company even more. As a result, on Tuesday, the company told investors that it's pulling out the hatchet. In the near term, Sandvik is aiming to reduce costs in its mining unit -- a move that will lead to significant cost savings, but also 300 million to 400 million kronor in charges between now and mid-year next year. Longer term, it's looking to spend three billion to four billion kronor to shrink operations and improve the efficiency of its supply chain.
As with Volvo, the short-term implication isn't great -- this is a clear admission of just how significant the industry's challenges are, and there will be big charges against earnings. But if the restructuring is executed well, this could be a profitable move for the longer term.
On the bright side
There weren't many stocks that fought the tide of the OMX 30's slump this week, but Hennes & Mauritz AB (NASDAQOTH:HNNMY) was one that had the recipe.
For the week, H&M's stock shot up 5.4% on the back of strong third-quarter results. As the global economy presents some challenges to other companies, H&M's business appears to be kicking into a higher gear. After opening its 2,000 store in 2010, the company hit a whopping 3,000 locations earlier this month as it opened a location in Chengdu, China.
The cheap chic fashion retailer has been growing quickly in China, and has plans to continue with more of the same. At the same time, the recently launched online store for the U.S. is "off to a good start." And, if you want to drill down to the numbers, one of the company's key metrics -- gross margin -- ticked up nicely from 58.2% to 58.8%.