Virtus Health Limited's (ASX:VRT) Stock Has Shown Weakness Lately But Financial Prospects Look Decent: Is The Market Wrong?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
September 13, 2021
ASX:VRT
Source: Shutterstock

With its stock down 18% over the past month, it is easy to disregard Virtus Health (ASX:VRT). However, the company's fundamentals look pretty decent, and long-term financials are usually aligned with future market price movements. In this article, we decided to focus on Virtus Health's ROE.

ROE or return on equity is a useful tool to assess how effectively a company can generate returns on the investment it received from its shareholders. Simply put, it is used to assess the profitability of a company in relation to its equity capital.

See our latest analysis for Virtus Health

How To Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for ROE is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Virtus Health is:

15% = AU$44m ÷ AU$301m (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2021).

The 'return' is the amount earned after tax over the last twelve months. So, this means that for every A$1 of its shareholder's investments, the company generates a profit of A$0.15.

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.

A Side By Side comparison of Virtus Health's Earnings Growth And 15% ROE

To start with, Virtus Health's ROE looks acceptable. Further, the company's ROE compares quite favorably to the industry average of 12%. As you might expect, the 8.5% net income decline reported by Virtus Health is a bit of a surprise. Therefore, there might be some other aspects that could explain this. For example, it could be that the company has a high payout ratio or the business has allocated capital poorly, for instance.

So, as a next step, we compared Virtus Health'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 3.2% in the same period.

past-earnings-growth
ASX:VRT Past Earnings Growth September 14th 2021

Earnings growth is a huge factor in stock valuation. It’s important for an investor to know whether the market has priced in the company's expected earnings growth (or decline). By doing so, they will have an idea if the stock is headed into clear blue waters or if swampy waters await. Is Virtus Health fairly valued compared to other companies? These 3 valuation measures might help you decide.

Is Virtus Health Efficiently Re-investing Its Profits?

Virtus Health has a high three-year median payout ratio of 67% (that is, it is retaining 33% of its profits). This suggests that the company is paying most of its profits as dividends to its shareholders. This goes some way in explaining why its earnings have been shrinking. With only a little being reinvested into the business, earnings growth would obviously be low or non-existent. You can see the 4 risks we have identified for Virtus Health by visiting our risks dashboard for free on our platform here.

Additionally, Virtus Health has paid dividends over a period of eight years, which means that the company's management is rather focused on keeping up its dividend payments, regardless of the shrinking earnings. Based on the latest analysts' estimates, we found that the company's future payout ratio over the next three years is expected to hold steady at 58%. Still, forecasts suggest that Virtus Health's future ROE will drop to 11% even though the the company's payout ratio is not expected to change by much.

Conclusion

Overall, we feel that Virtus Health certainly does have some positive factors to consider. Yet, the low earnings growth is a bit concerning, especially given that the company has a high rate of return. Investors could have benefitted from the high ROE, had the company been reinvesting more of its earnings. As discussed earlier, the company is retaining a small portion of its profits. Having said that, we studied the latest analyst forecasts, and found that analysts are expecting the company's earnings growth to improve slightly. This could offer some relief to the company's existing shareholders. To know more about the latest analysts predictions for the company, check out this visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.

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