Netwealth Group Limited (ASX:NWL) shareholders might be concerned after seeing the share price drop 15% in the last quarter. But that shouldn't obscure the pleasing returns achieved by shareholders over the last three years. In fact, the company's share price bested the return of its market index in that time, posting a gain of 51%.
In light of the stock dropping 4.2% in the past week, we want to investigate the longer term story, and see if fundamentals have been the driver of the company's positive three-year return.
To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.
Netwealth Group was able to grow its EPS at 20% per year over three years, sending the share price higher. The average annual share price increase of 15% is actually lower than the EPS growth. So it seems investors have become more cautious about the company, over time. Having said that, the market is still optimistic, given the P/E ratio of 61.84.
You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).
It's probably worth noting that the CEO is paid less than the median at similar sized companies. But while CEO remuneration is always worth checking, the really important question is whether the company can grow earnings going forward. It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on Netwealth Group's earnings, revenue and cash flow.
What About Dividends?
When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. We note that for Netwealth Group the TSR over the last 3 years was 57%, 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
Over the last year, Netwealth Group shareholders took a loss of 1.4%, including dividends. In contrast the market gained about 13%. Of course the long term matters more than the short term, and even great stocks will sometimes have a poor year. Investors are up over three years, booking 16% per year, much better than the more recent returns. Sometimes when a good quality long term winner has a weak period, it's turns out to be an opportunity, but you really need to be sure that the quality is there. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for Netwealth Group you should be aware of, and 1 of them is potentially serious.
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 AU exchanges.
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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.