Should We Be Cautious About ACS, Actividades de Construcción y Servicios, S.A.’s (BME:ACS) ROE Of 11%?

While some investors are already well versed in financial metrics (hat tip), this article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE) and why it is important. By way of learning-by-doing, we’ll look at ROE to gain a better understanding of ACS, Actividades de Construcción y Servicios, S.A. (BME:ACS).

Return on Equity or ROE is a test of how effectively a company is growing its value and managing investors’ money. Put another way, it reveals the company’s success at turning shareholder investments into profits.

Check out our latest analysis for ACS Actividades de Construcción y Servicios

How To Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for return on equity is:

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

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for ACS Actividades de Construcción y Servicios is:

11% = €491m ÷ €4.3b (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2020).

The ‘return’ is the amount earned after tax over the last twelve months. So, this means that for every €1 of its shareholder’s investments, the company generates a profit of €0.11.

Does ACS Actividades de Construcción y Servicios Have A Good Return On Equity?

One simple way to determine if a company has a good return on equity is to compare it to the average for its industry. The limitation of this approach is that some companies are quite different from others, even within the same industry classification. If you look at the image below, you can see ACS Actividades de Construcción y Servicios has a lower ROE than the average (16%) in the Construction industry classification.

roe
BME:ACS Return on Equity August 17th 2020

That certainly isn’t ideal. Although, we think that a lower ROE could still mean that a company has the opportunity to better its returns with the use of leverage, provided its existing debt levels are low. A high debt company having a low ROE is a different story altogether and a risky investment in our books. Our risks dashboard should have the 4 risks we have identified for ACS Actividades de Construcción y Servicios.

Why You Should Consider Debt When Looking At ROE

Most companies need money — from somewhere — to grow their profits. That cash can come from issuing shares, retained earnings, or debt. In the case of the first and second options, the ROE will reflect this use of cash, for growth. In the latter case, the debt used for growth will improve returns, but won’t affect the total equity. In this manner the use of debt will boost ROE, even though the core economics of the business stay the same.

Combining ACS Actividades de Construcción y Servicios’ Debt And Its 11% Return On Equity

ACS Actividades de Construcción y Servicios clearly uses a high amount of debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 2.95. While its ROE is pretty respectable, the amount of debt the company is carrying currently is not ideal. Debt does bring extra risk, so it’s only really worthwhile when a company generates some decent returns from it.

Conclusion

Return on equity is a useful indicator of the ability of a business to generate profits and return them to shareholders. A company that can achieve a high return on equity without debt could be considered a high quality business. All else being equal, a higher ROE is better.

But when a business is high quality, the market often bids it up to a price that reflects this. The rate at which profits are likely to grow, relative to the expectations of profit growth reflected in the current price, must be considered, too. So you might want to check this FREE visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.

Of course ACS Actividades de Construcción y Servicios may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have high ROE and low debt.

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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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