With A Return On Equity Of 6.6%, Has Suncorp Group Limited's (ASX:SUN) Management Done Well?
While some investors are already well versed in financial metrics (hat tip), this article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE) and why it is important. We'll use ROE to examine Suncorp Group Limited (ASX:SUN), by way of a worked example.
Return on Equity or ROE is a test of how effectively a company is growing its value and managing investors’ money. In short, ROE shows the profit each dollar generates with respect to its shareholder investments.
See our latest analysis for Suncorp Group
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 Suncorp Group is:
6.6% = AU$867m ÷ AU$13b (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2022).
The 'return' refers to a company's earnings over the last year. Another way to think of that is that for every A$1 worth of equity, the company was able to earn A$0.07 in profit.
Does Suncorp Group Have A Good Return On Equity?
By comparing a company's ROE with its industry average, we can get a quick measure of how good it is. However, this method is only useful as a rough check, because companies do differ quite a bit within the same industry classification. If you look at the image below, you can see Suncorp Group has a similar ROE to the average in the Insurance industry classification (7.8%).
That isn't amazing, but it is respectable. Although the ROE is similar to the industry, we should still perform further checks to see if the company's ROE is being boosted by high debt levels. If true, then it is more an indication of risk than the potential. You can see the 3 risks we have identified for Suncorp Group by visiting our risks dashboard for free on our platform here.
Why You Should Consider Debt When Looking At ROE
Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. The cash for investment can come from prior year profits (retained earnings), issuing new shares, or borrowing. In the first two cases, the ROE will capture this use of capital to grow. In the latter case, the debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders' equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.
Suncorp Group's Debt And Its 6.6% ROE
Suncorp Group does use a high amount of debt to increase returns. It has a debt to equity ratio of 1.97. The combination of a rather low ROE and significant use of debt is not particularly appealing. Debt does bring extra risk, so it's only really worthwhile when a company generates some decent returns from it.
Return on equity is a useful indicator of the ability of a business to generate profits and return them to shareholders. In our books, the highest quality companies have high return on equity, despite low debt. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.
But ROE is just one piece of a bigger puzzle, since high quality businesses often trade on high multiples of earnings. The rate at which profits are likely to grow, relative to the expectations of profit growth reflected in the current price, must be considered, too. So you might want to check this FREE visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.
Of course Suncorp Group may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have high ROE and low debt.
Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.
Find out whether Suncorp Group is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.View the Free Analysis
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.
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.
Suncorp Group Limited provides insurance and banking products and services to retail, corporate, and commercial customers in Australia and New Zealand.
Average dividend payer and slightly overvalued.