Did Changing Sentiment Drive Virtus Health’s (ASX:VRT) Share Price Down A Worrying 51%?

Many investors define successful investing as beating the market average over the long term. But in any portfolio, there are likely to be some stocks that fall short of that benchmark. We regret to report that long term Virtus Health Limited (ASX:VRT) shareholders have had that experience, with the share price dropping 51% in three years, versus a market return of about 31%. And over the last year the share price fell 29%, so we doubt many shareholders are delighted. The last week also saw the share price slip down another 22%. This could be related to the recent financial results – you can catch up on the most recent data by reading our company report.

View our latest analysis for Virtus Health

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…’ 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.

Virtus Health saw its EPS decline at a compound rate of 4.9% per year, over the last three years. This reduction in EPS is slower than the 21% annual reduction in the share price. So it seems the market was too confident about the business, in the past. This increased caution is also evident in the rather low P/E ratio, which is sitting at 11.28.

ASX:VRT Past and Future Earnings, August 22nd 2019
ASX:VRT Past and Future Earnings, August 22nd 2019

It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on Virtus Health’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 is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. In the case of Virtus Health, it has a TSR of -43% for the last 3 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

While the broader market gained around 7.3% in the last year, Virtus Health shareholders lost 25% (even including dividends). However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. Unfortunately, last year’s performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 8.5% over the last half decade. We realise that Buffett 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 businesses. Before forming an opinion on Virtus Health you might want to consider the cold hard cash it pays as a dividend. This free chart tracks its dividend over time.

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on AU exchanges.

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.