While it may not be enough for some shareholders, we think it is good to see the Hays plc (LON:HAS) share price up 17% in a single quarter. But if you look at the last five years the returns have not been good. After all, the share price is down 27% in that time, significantly under-performing the market.
There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect underlying business performance. One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.
During the unfortunate half decade during which the share price slipped, Hays actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) improve by 7.5% 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). Or possibly, the market was previously very optimistic, so the stock has disappointed, despite improving EPS.
Because of the sharp contrast between the EPS growth rate and the share price growth, we’re inclined to look to other metrics to understand the changing market sentiment around the stock.
We note that the dividend has remained healthy, so that wouldn’t really explain the share price drop. It’s not immediately clear to us why the stock price is down but further research might provide some answers.
The company’s revenue and earnings (over time) are depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).
We like that insiders have been buying shares in the last twelve months. Having said that, most people consider earnings and revenue growth trends to be a more meaningful guide to the business. This free report showing analyst forecasts should help you form a view on Hays
What About Dividends?
When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. 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 Hays the TSR over the last 5 years was -12%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.
A Different Perspective
While the broader market lost about 11% in the twelve months, Hays shareholders did even worse, losing 17% (even including dividends) . However, it could simply be that the share price has been impacted by broader market jitters. It might be worth keeping an eye on the fundamentals, in case there’s a good opportunity. Unfortunately, last year’s performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 2.5% over the last half decade. We realise that Baron Rothschild has said investors should “buy when there is blood on the streets”, but we caution that investors should first be sure they are buying a high quality business. It’s always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand Hays better, we need to consider many other factors. Take risks, for example – Hays has 3 warning signs we think you should be aware of.
Hays 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 GB exchanges.
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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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