Imagine Owning Mueller Water Products (NYSE:MWA) And Wondering If The 15% Share Price Slide Is Justified

While not a mind-blowing move, it is good to see that the Mueller Water Products, Inc. (NYSE:MWA) share price has gained 11% in the last three months. But that cannot eclipse the less-than-impressive returns over the last three years. After all, the share price is down 15% in the last three years, significantly under-performing the market.

Check out our latest analysis for Mueller Water Products

To quote Buffett, ‘Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace…’ One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company’s share price and its earnings per share (EPS).

During the unfortunate three years of share price decline, Mueller Water Products actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) improve by 1.4% per year. Given the share price reaction, one might suspect that EPS is not a good guide to the business performance during the period (perhaps due to a one-off loss or gain). Alternatively, growth expectations may have been unreasonable in the past. It looks to us like the market was probably too optimistic around growth three years ago. Looking to other metrics might better explain the share price change.

We note that, in three years, revenue has actually grown at a 5.1% annual rate, so that doesn’t seem to be a reason to sell shares. This analysis is just perfunctory, but it might be worth researching Mueller Water Products more closely, as sometimes stocks fall unfairly. This could present an opportunity.

NYSE:MWA Income Statement, August 30th 2019
NYSE:MWA Income Statement, August 30th 2019

It’s good to see that there was some significant insider buying in the last three months. That’s a positive. That said, we think earnings and revenue growth trends are even more important factors to consider. If you are thinking of buying or selling Mueller Water Products stock, you should check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. We note that for Mueller Water Products the TSR over the last 3 years was -10%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. And there’s no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

While the broader market gained around 0.8% in the last year, Mueller Water Products shareholders lost 11% (even including dividends). Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. On the bright side, long term shareholders have made money, with a gain of 3.8% per year over half a decade. If the fundamental data continues to indicate long term sustainable growth, the current sell-off could be an opportunity worth considering. If you want to research this stock further, the data on insider buying is an obvious place to start. You can click here to see who has been buying shares – and the price they paid.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.