South32 (ASX:S32) Has Gifted Shareholders With A Fantastic 173% Total Return On Their Investment

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 18, 2020

When you buy shares in a company, it's worth keeping in mind the possibility that it could fail, and you could lose your money. But on a lighter note, a good company can see its share price rise well over 100%. One great example is South32 Limited (ASX:S32) which saw its share price drive 133% higher over five years. It's also good to see the share price up 15% over the last quarter. But this move may well have been assisted by the reasonably buoyant market (up 15% in 90 days).

View our latest analysis for South32

In his essay The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville Warren Buffett described how share prices do not always rationally reflect the value of a business. By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.

South32 has made a profit in the past. However, it made a loss in the last twelve months, suggesting profit may be an unreliable metric at this stage. So it might be better to look at other metrics to try to understand the share price.

The modest 1.6% dividend yield is unlikely to be propping up the share price. In contrast revenue growth of 5.5% per year is probably viewed as evidence that South32 is growing, a real positive. It's quite possible that management are prioritizing revenue growth over EPS growth at the moment.

The graphic below depicts how earnings and revenue have changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).

ASX:S32 Earnings and Revenue Growth December 19th 2020

South32 is well known by investors, and plenty of clever analysts have tried to predict the future profit levels. So we recommend checking out this free report showing consensus forecasts

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. In the case of South32, it has a TSR of 173% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

Investors in South32 had a tough year, with a total loss of 5.6% (including dividends), against a market gain of about 4.6%. Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. Longer term investors wouldn't be so upset, since they would have made 22%, each year, over five years. It could be that the recent sell-off is an opportunity, so it may be worth checking the fundamental data for signs of a long term growth trend. If you would like to research South32 in more detail then you might want to take a look at whether insiders have been buying or selling shares in the company.

Of course South32 may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of growth stocks.

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

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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. 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.
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