Investors Who Bought CenturyLink (NYSE:CTL) Shares Five Years Ago Are Now Down 72%

Generally speaking long term investing is the way to go. But that doesn’t mean long term investors can avoid big losses. To wit, the CenturyLink, Inc. (NYSE:CTL) share price managed to fall 72% over five long years. That’s not a lot of fun for true believers. We also note that the stock has performed poorly over the last year, with the share price down 49%. It’s down 3.9% in the last seven days.

Check out our latest analysis for CenturyLink

While markets are a powerful pricing mechanism, share prices reflect investor sentiment, not just underlying business performance. By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.

We know that CenturyLink has been profitable in the past. On the other hand, it reported a trailing twelve months loss, suggesting it isn’t reliably profitable. Other metrics might give us a better handle on how its value is changing over time.

We note that the dividend has fallen in the last five years, so that may have contributed to the share price decline.

NYSE:CTL Income Statement, August 14th 2019
NYSE:CTL Income Statement, August 14th 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. You can see what analysts are predicting for CenturyLink in this interactive graph of future profit estimates.

What About Dividends?

When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. As it happens, CenturyLink’s TSR for the last 5 years was -56%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

Investors in CenturyLink had a tough year, with a total loss of 43% (including dividends), against a market gain of about 3.5%. However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. Unfortunately, last year’s performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 15% over the last half decade. Generally speaking long term share price weakness can be a bad sign, though contrarian investors might want to research the stock in hope of a turnaround. It is all well and good that insiders have been buying shares, but we suggest you check here to see what price insiders were buying at.

CenturyLink is not the only stock that insiders are buying. For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.