Should You Be Worried About Physicians Realty Trust’s (NYSE:DOC) 2.2% Return On Equity?

Many investors are still learning about the various metrics that can be useful when analysing a stock. This article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE). We’ll use ROE to examine Physicians Realty Trust (NYSE:DOC), by way of a worked example.

Over the last twelve months Physicians Realty Trust has recorded a ROE of 2.2%. That means that for every $1 worth of shareholders’ equity, it generated $0.02 in profit.

See our latest analysis for Physicians Realty Trust

How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for return on equity is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders’ Equity

Or for Physicians Realty Trust:

2.2% = US$51m ÷ US$2.5b (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

It’s easy to understand the ‘net profit’ part of that equation, but ‘shareholders’ equity’ requires further explanation. It is all earnings retained by the company, plus any capital paid in by shareholders. You can calculate shareholders’ equity by subtracting the company’s total liabilities from its total assets.

What Does Return On Equity Signify?

ROE looks at the amount a company earns relative to the money it has kept within the business. The ‘return’ is the amount earned after tax over the last twelve months. That means that the higher the ROE, the more profitable the company is. So, all else being equal, a high ROE is better than a low one. That means ROE can be used to compare two businesses.

Does Physicians Realty Trust 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. Importantly, this is far from a perfect measure, because companies differ significantly within the same industry classification. As shown in the graphic below, Physicians Realty Trust has a lower ROE than the average (6.2%) in the REITs industry classification.

NYSE:DOC Past Revenue and Net Income, November 1st 2019
NYSE:DOC Past Revenue and Net Income, November 1st 2019

That’s not what we like to see. It is better when the ROE is above industry average, but a low one doesn’t necessarily mean the business is overpriced. Nonetheless, it might be wise to check if insiders have been selling.

How Does Debt Impact Return On Equity?

Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. That cash can come from retained earnings, issuing new shares (equity), or debt. In the first and second cases, the ROE will reflect this use of cash for investment in the business. In the latter case, the debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders’ equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.

Combining Physicians Realty Trust’s Debt And Its 2.2% Return On Equity

Physicians Realty Trust has a debt to equity ratio of 0.62, which is far from excessive. Its ROE is rather low, and it does use some debt, albeit not much. That’s not great to see. Conservative use of debt to boost returns is usually a good move for shareholders, though it does leave the company more exposed to interest rate rises.

But It’s Just One Metric

Return on equity is one way we can compare the business quality of different companies. In my book the highest quality companies have high return on equity, despite low debt. All else being equal, a higher ROE is better.

But ROE is just one piece of a bigger puzzle, since high quality businesses often trade on high multiples of earnings. It is important to consider other factors, such as future profit growth — and how much investment is required going forward. So I think it may be worth checking this free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Of course Physicians Realty Trust 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.

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.