QBE Insurance Group (ASX:QBE) has had a rough week with its share price down 8.5%. We, however decided to study the company's financials to determine if they have got anything to do with the price decline. Stock prices are usually driven by a company’s financial performance over the long term, and therefore we decided to pay more attention to the company's financial performance. Particularly, we will be paying attention to QBE Insurance Group's ROE today.
Return on equity or ROE is a key measure used to assess how efficiently a company's management is utilizing the company's capital. In simpler terms, it measures the profitability of a company in relation to shareholder's equity.
How Is ROE Calculated?
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 QBE Insurance Group is:
8.5% = US$757m ÷ US$8.9b (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 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$0.09 in profit.
What Is The Relationship Between ROE And Earnings Growth?
Thus far, we have learned that ROE measures how efficiently a company is generating its profits. 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. Assuming everything else remains unchanged, the higher the ROE and profit retention, the higher the growth rate of a company compared to companies that don't necessarily bear these characteristics.
A Side By Side comparison of QBE Insurance Group's Earnings Growth And 8.5% ROE
On the face of it, QBE Insurance Group's ROE is not much to talk about. A quick further study shows that the company's ROE doesn't compare favorably to the industry average of 12% either. Given the circumstances, the significant decline in net income by 14% seen by QBE Insurance Group over the last five years is not surprising. However, there could also be other factors causing the earnings to decline. Such as - low earnings retention or poor allocation of capital.
However, when we compared QBE Insurance Group's growth with the industry we found that while the company's earnings have been shrinking, the industry has seen an earnings growth of 1.8% in the same period. This is quite worrisome.
Earnings growth is an important metric to consider when valuing a stock. What investors need to determine next is if the expected earnings growth, or the lack of it, is already built into the share price. Doing so will help them establish if the stock's future looks promising or ominous. If you're wondering about QBE Insurance Group's's valuation, check out this gauge of its price-to-earnings ratio, as compared to its industry.
Is QBE Insurance Group Using Its Retained Earnings Effectively?
QBE Insurance Group's low three-year median payout ratio of 22% (implying that it retains the remaining 78% of its profits) comes as a surprise when you pair it with the shrinking earnings. The low payout should mean that the company is retaining most of its earnings and consequently, should see some growth. So there might be other factors at play here which could potentially be hampering growth. For instance, the business has faced some headwinds.
In addition, QBE Insurance Group has been paying dividends over a period of at least ten years suggesting that keeping up dividend payments is way more important to the management even if it comes at the cost of business growth. Looking at the current analyst consensus data, we can see that the company's future payout ratio is expected to rise to 58% over the next three years. Regardless, the future ROE for QBE Insurance Group is speculated to rise to 14% despite the anticipated increase in the payout ratio. There could probably be other factors that could be driving the future growth in the ROE.
On the whole, we feel that the performance shown by QBE Insurance Group can be open to many interpretations. While the company does have a high rate of reinvestment, the low ROE means that all that reinvestment is not reaping any benefit to its investors, and moreover, its having a negative impact on the earnings growth. That being so, the latest industry analyst forecasts show that the analysts are expecting to see a huge improvement in the company's earnings growth rate. 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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