What is Behind INSCAPE Corporation’s (TSX:INQ) Superior ROE?

INSCAPE Corporation (TSX:INQ) outperformed the office services and supplies industry on the basis of its ROE – producing a higher 15.93% relative to the peer average of 7.71% over the past 12 months. But what is more interesting is whether INQ can sustain this above-average ratio. A measure of sustainable returns is INQ’s financial leverage. If INQ borrows debt to invest in its business, its profits will be higher. But ROE does not capture any debt, so we only see high profits and low equity, which is great on the surface. But today let’s take a deeper dive below this surface. See our latest analysis for INQ

Peeling the layers of ROE – trisecting a company’s profitability

Return on Equity (ROE) is a measure of INQ’s profit relative to its shareholders’ equity. It essentially shows how much INQ can generate in earnings given the amount of equity it has raised. If investors diversify their portfolio by industry, they may want to maximise their return in the Office Services and Supplies sector by investing in the highest returning stock. However, this can be misleading as each firm has different costs of equity and debt levels i.e. the more debt INQ has, the higher ROE is pumped up in the short term, at the expense of long term interest payment burden.

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders Equity

Returns are usually compared to costs to measure the efficiency of capital. INQ’s cost of equity is 8.49%. Given a positive discrepancy of 7.43% between return and cost, this indicates that INQ pays less for its capital than what it generates in return, which is a sign of capital efficiency. ROE can be split up into three useful ratios: net profit margin, asset turnover, and financial leverage. This is called the Dupont Formula:

Dupont Formula

ROE = profit margin × asset turnover × financial leverage

ROE = (annual net profit ÷ sales) × (sales ÷ assets) × (assets ÷ shareholders’ equity)

ROE = annual net profit ÷ shareholders’ equity

TSX:INQ Last Perf Nov 30th 17
TSX:INQ Last Perf Nov 30th 17

The first component is profit margin, which measures how much of sales is retained after the company pays for all its expenses. Asset turnover reveals how much revenue can be generated from INQ’s asset base. Finally, financial leverage will be our main focus today. It shows how much of assets are funded by equity and can show how sustainable INQ’s capital structure is. ROE can be inflated by disproportionately high levels of debt. This is also unsustainable due to the high interest cost that the company will also incur. Thus, we should look at INQ’s debt-to-equity ratio to examine sustainability of its returns. Currently, INQ has no debt which means its returns are driven purely by equity capital. Therefore, the level of financial leverage has no impact on ROE, and the ratio is a representative measure of the efficiency of all its capital employed firm-wide.

TSX:INQ Historical Debt Nov 30th 17
TSX:INQ Historical Debt Nov 30th 17

Next Steps:

ROE is one of many ratios which meaningfully dissects financial statements, which illustrates the quality of a company. INQ’s above-industry ROE is encouraging, and is also in excess of its cost of equity. Its high ROE is not likely to be driven by high debt. Therefore, investors may have more confidence in the sustainability of this level of returns going forward. ROE is a helpful signal, but it is definitely not sufficient on its own to make an investment decision.

For INSCAPE, there are three relevant aspects you should look at:

1. Financial Health: Does it have a healthy balance sheet? Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis with six simple checks on key factors like leverage and risk.

2. Future Earnings: How does INQ’s growth rate compare to its peers and the wider market? Dig deeper into the analyst consensus number for the upcoming years by interacting with our free analyst growth expectation chart.

3. Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of INQ? Explore our interactive list of stocks with large growth potential to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!