Did Compass Minerals International, Inc. (NYSE:CMP) Use Debt To Deliver Its ROE Of 12%?

Many investors are still learning about the various metrics that can be useful when analysing a stock. This article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE). To keep the lesson grounded in practicality, we’ll use ROE to better understand Compass Minerals International, Inc. (NYSE:CMP).

Our data shows Compass Minerals International has a return on equity of 12% for the last year. Another way to think of that is that for every $1 worth of equity in the company, it was able to earn $0.12.

Check out our latest analysis for Compass Minerals International

How Do I Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for return on equity is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders’ Equity

Or for Compass Minerals International:

12% = US$57m ÷ US$460m (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

It’s easy to understand the ‘net profit’ part of that equation, but ‘shareholders’ equity’ requires further explanation. It is the capital paid in by shareholders, plus any retained earnings. You can calculate shareholders’ equity by subtracting the company’s total liabilities from its total assets.

What Does Return On Equity Mean?

Return on Equity measures a company’s profitability against the profit it has kept for the business (plus any capital injections). The ‘return’ is the yearly profit. That means that the higher the ROE, the more profitable the company is. So, as a general rule, a high ROE is a good thing. Clearly, then, one can use ROE to compare different companies.

Does Compass Minerals International Have A Good ROE?

One simple way to determine if a company has a good return on equity is to compare it to the average for its industry. The limitation of this approach is that some companies are quite different from others, even within the same industry classification. The image below shows that Compass Minerals International has an ROE that is roughly in line with the Metals and Mining industry average (13%).

NYSE:CMP Past Revenue and Net Income, February 8th 2020
NYSE:CMP Past Revenue and Net Income, February 8th 2020

That’s neither particularly good, nor bad. ROE tells us about the quality of the business, but it does not give us much of an idea if the share price is cheap. If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

Why You Should Consider Debt When Looking At ROE

Virtually all companies need money to invest in the business, to grow profits. That cash can come from issuing shares, retained earnings, or debt. In the first two cases, the ROE will capture this use of capital to grow. In the latter case, the debt used for growth will improve returns, but won’t affect the total equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.

Compass Minerals International’s Debt And Its 12% ROE

It appears that Compass Minerals International makes extensive use of debt to improve its returns, because it has a relatively high debt to equity ratio of 3.07. Its ROE is decent, but once I consider all the debt, I’m not really impressed.

The Key Takeaway

Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. Companies that can achieve high returns on equity without too much debt are generally of good quality. All else being equal, a higher ROE is better.

But when a business is high quality, the market often bids it up to a price that reflects this. Profit growth rates, versus the expectations reflected in the price of the stock, are a particularly important to consider. So you might want to take a peek at this data-rich interactive graph of forecasts for the company.

If you would prefer check out another company — one with potentially superior financials — then do not miss thisfree list of interesting companies, that have HIGH return on equity and low debt.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Thank you for reading.