National HealthCare (NYSEMKT:NHC) Is Growing Earnings But Are They A Good Guide?

Many investors consider it preferable to invest in profitable companies over unprofitable ones, because profitability suggests a business is sustainable. That said, the current statutory profit is not always a good guide to a company’s underlying profitability. Today we’ll focus on whether this year’s statutory profits are a good guide to understanding National HealthCare (NYSEMKT:NHC).

We like the fact that National HealthCare made a profit of US$72.6m on its revenue of US$989.8m, in the last year. Happily, it has grown both its profit and revenue over the last three years, as you can see in the chart below.

Check out our latest analysis for National HealthCare

AMEX:NHC Income Statement, February 12th 2020
AMEX:NHC Income Statement, February 12th 2020

Importantly, statutory profits are not always the best tool for understanding a company’s true earnings power, so it’s well worth examining profits in a little more detail. This article will focus on the impact unusual items have had on National HealthCare’s statutory earnings. Note: we always recommend investors check balance sheet strength. Click here to be taken to our balance sheet analysis of National HealthCare.

The Impact Of Unusual Items On Profit

For anyone who wants to understand National HealthCare’s profit beyond the statutory numbers, it’s important to note that during the last twelve months statutory profit gained from US$19m worth of unusual items. While it’s always nice to have higher profit, a large contribution from unusual items sometimes dampens our enthusiasm. When we crunched the numbers on thousands of publicly listed companies, we found that a boost from unusual items in a given year is often not repeated the next year. Which is hardly surprising, given the name. We can see that National HealthCare’s positive unusual items were quite significant relative to its profit in the year to September 2019. All else being equal, this would likely have the effect of making the statutory profit a poor guide to underlying earnings power.

Our Take On National HealthCare’s Profit Performance

As previously mentioned, National HealthCare’s large boost from unusual items won’t be there indefinitely, so its statutory earnings are probably a poor guide to its underlying profitability. For this reason, we think that National HealthCare’s statutory profits may be a bad guide to its underlying earnings power, and might give investors an overly positive impression of the company. But at least holders can take some solace from the 38% per annum growth in EPS for the last three. Of course, we’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to analysing its earnings; one could also consider margins, forecast growth, and return on investment, among other factors. While earnings are important, another area to consider is the balance sheet. You can seeour latest analysis on National HealthCare’s balance sheet health here.

This note has only looked at a single factor that sheds light on the nature of National HealthCare’s profit. But there are plenty of other ways to inform your opinion of a company. For example, many people consider a high return on equity as an indication of favorable business economics, while others like to ‘follow the money’ and search out stocks that insiders are buying. While it might take a little research on your behalf, you may find this free collection of companies boasting high return on equity, or this list of stocks that insiders are buying to be useful.

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.