Investing in Westpac Banking (ASX:WBC) three years ago would have delivered you a 52% gain
Low-cost index funds make it easy to achieve average market returns. But across the board there are plenty of stocks that underperform the market. For example, the Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC) share price return of 35% over three years lags the market return in the same period. Disappointingly, the share price is down 10.0% in the last year.
Let's take a look at the underlying fundamentals over the longer term, and see if they've been consistent with shareholders returns.
Check out our latest analysis for Westpac Banking
While markets are a powerful pricing mechanism, share prices reflect investor sentiment, not just 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.
Over the last three years, Westpac Banking failed to grow earnings per share, which fell 6.1% (annualized).
This means it's unlikely the market is judging the company based on earnings growth. Therefore, we think it's worth considering other metrics as well.
The dividend is no better now than it was three years ago, so that is unlikely to have driven the share price higher. It's much more likely that the fact that Westpac Banking has been growing revenue at 3.6% a year is seen as a genuine positive. It could be that investors are content with the revenue growth on the basis that the company isn't really focussed on profits just yet. And that might explain the higher price.
You can see how earnings and revenue have changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).
Westpac Banking is well known by investors, and plenty of clever analysts have tried to predict the future profit levels. If you are thinking of buying or selling Westpac Banking stock, you should check out this free report showing analyst consensus estimates for future profits.
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 Westpac Banking the TSR over the last 3 years was 52%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!
A Different Perspective
While the broader market lost about 2.6% in the twelve months, Westpac Banking shareholders did even worse, losing 5.1% (even including dividends). Having said that, it's inevitable that some stocks will be oversold in a falling market. The key is to keep your eyes on the fundamental developments. Unfortunately, last year's performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 0.8% 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. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. For instance, we've identified 1 warning sign for Westpac Banking that you should be aware of.
If you would prefer to check out another company -- one with potentially superior financials -- then do not miss this free list of companies that have proven they can grow earnings.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on Australian exchanges.
Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.
Find out whether Westpac Banking is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.View the Free Analysis
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.
Westpac Banking Corporation provides various banking and financial services in Australia, New Zealand, and internationally.
Excellent balance sheet and fair value.