Should Weakness in Cochlear Limited's (ASX:COH) Stock Be Seen As A Sign That Market Will Correct The Share Price Given Decent Financials?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
January 14, 2022
ASX:COH
Source: Shutterstock

With its stock down 7.3% over the past three months, it is easy to disregard Cochlear (ASX:COH). However, the company's fundamentals look pretty decent, and long-term financials are usually aligned with future market price movements. Particularly, we will be paying attention to Cochlear's ROE today.

Return on Equity or ROE is a test of how effectively a company is growing its value and managing investors’ money. In simpler terms, it measures the profitability of a company in relation to shareholder's equity.

View our latest analysis for Cochlear

How Do You 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 Cochlear is:

19% = AU$327m ÷ AU$1.7b (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2021).

The 'return' is the amount earned after tax over the last twelve months. That means that for every A$1 worth of shareholders' equity, the company generated A$0.19 in profit.

Why Is ROE Important For Earnings Growth?

So far, we've learned that ROE is a measure of a company's profitability. We now need to evaluate how much profit the company reinvests or "retains" for future growth which then gives us an idea about the growth potential of the company. Generally speaking, other things being equal, firms with a high return on equity and profit retention, have a higher growth rate than firms that don’t share these attributes.

Cochlear's Earnings Growth And 19% ROE

To start with, Cochlear's ROE looks acceptable. Further, the company's ROE compares quite favorably to the industry average of 16%. Needless to say, we are quite surprised to see that Cochlear's net income shrunk at a rate of 20% over the past five years. We reckon that there could be some other factors at play here that are preventing the company's growth. These include low earnings retention or poor allocation of capital.

So, as a next step, we compared Cochlear's performance against the industry and were disappointed to discover that while the company has been shrinking its earnings, the industry has been growing its earnings at a rate of 12% in the same period.

past-earnings-growth
ASX:COH Past Earnings Growth January 14th 2022

The basis for attaching value to a company is, to a great extent, tied to its earnings growth. The investor should try to establish if the expected growth or decline in earnings, whichever the case may be, is priced in. Doing so will help them establish if the stock's future looks promising or ominous. Is COH fairly valued? This infographic on the company's intrinsic value has everything you need to know.

Is Cochlear Efficiently Re-investing Its Profits?

Cochlear's declining earnings is not surprising given how the company is spending most of its profits in paying dividends, judging by its three-year median payout ratio of 69% (or a retention ratio of 31%). With only very little left to reinvest into the business, growth in earnings is far from likely.

Additionally, Cochlear has paid dividends over a period of at least ten years, which means that the company's management is determined to pay dividends even if it means little to no earnings growth. Upon studying the latest analysts' consensus data, we found that the company is expected to keep paying out approximately 73% of its profits over the next three years. As a result, Cochlear's ROE is not expected to change by much either, which we inferred from the analyst estimate of 18% for future ROE.

Summary

In total, it does look like Cochlear has some positive aspects to its business. Although, we are disappointed to see a lack of growth in earnings even in spite of a high ROE. Bear in mind, the company reinvests a small portion of its profits, which means that investors aren't reaping the benefits of the high rate of return. With that said, we studied the latest analyst forecasts and found that while the company has shrunk its earnings in the past, analysts expect its earnings to grow in the future. To know more about the company's future earnings growth forecasts take a look at this free report on analyst forecasts for the company to find out more.

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