Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE:NSC) Stock Has Shown Weakness Lately But Financials Look Strong: Should Prospective Shareholders Make The Leap?

Norfolk Southern (NYSE:NSC) has had a rough three months with its share price down 27%. However, a closer look at its sound financials might cause you to think again. Given that fundamentals usually drive long-term market outcomes, the company is worth looking at. Particularly, we will be paying attention to Norfolk Southern’s ROE today.

Return on equity or ROE is an important factor to be considered by a shareholder because it tells them how effectively their capital is being reinvested. Put another way, it reveals the company’s success at turning shareholder investments into profits.

Check out our latest analysis for Norfolk Southern

How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for ROE is:

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

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Norfolk Southern is:

18% = US$2.7b ÷ US$15b (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019).

The ‘return’ is the amount earned after tax over the last twelve months. One way to conceptualize this is that for each $1 of shareholders’ capital it has, the company made $0.18 in profit.

What Is The Relationship Between ROE And Earnings Growth?

So far, we’ve learnt that ROE is a measure of a company’s profitability. Based on how much of its profits the company chooses to reinvest or “retain”, we are then able to evaluate a company’s future ability to generate profits. Generally speaking, other things being equal, firms with a high return on equity and profit retention, have a higher growth rate than firms that don’t share these attributes.

Norfolk Southern’s Earnings Growth And 18% ROE

At first glance, Norfolk Southern seems to have a decent ROE. Further, the company’s ROE compares quite favorably to the industry average of 11%. This certainly adds some context to Norfolk Southern’s decent 18% net income growth seen over the past five years.

As a next step, we compared Norfolk Southern’s net income growth with the industry, and pleasingly, we found that the growth seen by the company is higher than the average industry growth of 12%.

NYSE:NSC Past Earnings Growth April 17th 2020
NYSE:NSC Past Earnings Growth April 17th 2020

Earnings growth is a huge factor in stock valuation. It’s important for an investor to know whether the market has priced in the company’s expected earnings growth (or decline). By doing so, they will have an idea if the stock is headed into clear blue waters or if swampy waters await. Is NSC fairly valued? This infographic on the company’s intrinsic value has everything you need to know.

Is Norfolk Southern Efficiently Re-investing Its Profits?

Norfolk Southern has a healthy combination of a moderate three-year median payout ratio of 35% (or a retention ratio of 65%) and a respectable amount of growth in earnings as we saw above, meaning that the company has been making efficient use of its profits.

Moreover, Norfolk Southern is determined to keep sharing its profits with shareholders which we infer from its long history of paying a dividend for at least ten years. Based on the latest analysts’ estimates, we found that the company’s future payout ratio over the next three years is expected to hold steady at 34%. As a result, Norfolk Southern’s ROE is not expected to change by much either, which we inferred from the analyst estimate of 18% for future ROE.

Summary

In total, we are pretty happy with Norfolk Southern’s performance. In particular, it’s great to see that the company is investing heavily into its business and along with a high rate of return, that has resulted in a sizeable growth in its earnings. Having said that, the company’s earnings growth is expected to slow down, as forecasted in the current analyst estimates. To know more about the company’s future earnings growth forecasts take a look at this free report on analyst forecasts for the company to find out more.

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.