9 B.C. stocks we’re watching in 2024

Financial markets have entered a new era, leaving some local performers at bargain prices


It’s been an annus horribilis for fashion retailer and former stock market star Aritzia (TSX:ATZ). First there were rising interest rates, which make life hard for growth stocks. Then there were slowing sales—a foretaste of recession that could crimp consumers’ discretionary spending? Finally, simmering complaints about the corporate culture under founder and CEO Brian Hill boiled over in a scathing report by Business Insider. Then again, Lululemon went through a similar period of self-reflection a decade ago—you’ll recall Chip Wilson’s indelicate remarks about “some women’s bodies”—and went on to reward loyal investors (if not always the founder) handsomely.

Loop Energy

This Vancouver fuel-cell developer launched with much fanfare and a $16 offering price in February of 2021. These days the stock can be had for less than a quarter. Blame a ferocious cash burn since the IPO, combined with the markets’ souring on green energy. Loop (TSX:LPEN) kicked off a search for strategic alternatives (code for an outright sale, partnership or licensing deal) last March, reaching out to 130 potential counterparties, but came up empty handed. In September, the company laid off two-thirds of its workers and closed its operations in China to conserve its cash reserves, but those too could run out as early as the first quarter of 2024.

Lucara Diamond Corp. 

Lucara’s (TSX:LUC) undeniable innovation and accomplishments never seem to trickle down to the bottom line, or to shareholders’ value. The company pulled another couple of monster diamonds from its Karowe mine in Botswana in 2023, at least in part thanks to a proprietary ore processing technique that keeps such stones from getting crushed. But it remains a barely profitable penny stock, which may have had something to do with co-founder Eira Thomas’s decision to step down as CEO in August after five years. Past CEO and director William Lamb now occupies the post.

NexGen Energy

NexGen’s Rook I project in Saskatchewan is the largest new uranium mine in development in Canada. The company (TSX:NXE) raised US$110 million in convertible debentures from investment banks in Australia and Hong Kong in September aimed at getting the pit through its final permitting this year and on to the construction phase. Success in this endeavour should see NexGen stock—up roughly 40 percent over the year to late October—continue its hot streak.

Sigma Lithium Corp.

Shares jumped 15 percent in September when Sigma Lithium (TSXV:SGML) revealed it had received multiple proposals from unnamed parties to buy the company, its Brazilian subsidiary or the mine it has been developing in that country (start-up was expected in Q4 2023). Everyone from electric vehicle manufacturers to existing lithium suppliers has been scrambling to secure supplies of the essential battery element in expectation of soaring demand. Sigma, the No. 2 company on the TSX Venture Exchange by market capitalization, represents a major new source of supply.

Telus International

Telus International (TSX:TIXT), the telecom’s automated customer service spinoff, was the kind of tech company that investors craved up until the end of 2021. Then the tech backlash took hold amid rising interest rates. Plus, clients started cutting back on expenditures, such that 2023 full-year revenue guidance was cut from 10- to 12-percent growth to 1- to 2-percent. The stock cratered so badly, losing two thirds of its value, that it dragged the mother corp’s shares down with it. TIXT vowed to cut 2,000 staff in response. But revenue continues to inch upward even now. This stock could feel the love again should earnings recover too.

Wall Financial

Wall Financial (TSX:WFC) could be the turnaround story among B.C. public companies in 2023. Against a difficult backdrop for real estate, the residential developer and hotel operator’s stock had pulled off a nearly 50-percent bounce year-to-date as of late October. And this while paying its shareholders an eye-popping 15-percent-plus dividend yield. Too good to be true? Evaluating a company that develops buildings over many years is more complex than one that sells widgets and incurs expenses. This year should prove whether WFC’s rebound was justified or illusory.

West Fraser Timber 

West Fraser (TSX, NYSE:WFG) opted for continuity when it chose chief operating officer Sean McLaren to succeed Ray Ferris as CEO, effective January 1, 2024. McLaren’s tenure with the company and its predecessors goes back 35 years, longer even than Ferris’s. Still, investors wonder whether McLaren will simply consolidate and hone the expansions—most notably the acquisition of Norbord in 2021—wrought by his predecessor or try to leave his own mark on Canada’s largest and most reliably profitable publicly traded forest company.

Westport Fuel Systems

Westport (TSX:WPRT) has always been a company longer on story than on results. David Johnson, who was hired as CEO in 2019 to “advance the strategic focus” of the low-carbon truck engine designer, departed suddenly this past August. Board member Tony Guglielmin is filling Johnson’s shoes for the time being. The stock, a consistent money loser for three decades, is holding up decently well, and analysts back its technology, but one wonders how many more kicks at the can this perennial next big thing has.