Stock Analysis

Is Telstra Corporation Limited's (ASX:TLS) ROE Of 13% Impressive?

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ASX:TLS
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Many investors are still learning about the various metrics that can be useful when analysing a stock. This article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE). By way of learning-by-doing, we'll look at ROE to gain a better understanding of Telstra Corporation Limited (ASX:TLS).

Return on equity or ROE is an important factor to be considered by a shareholder because it tells them how effectively their capital is being reinvested. Simply put, it is used to assess the profitability of a company in relation to its equity capital.

View our latest analysis for Telstra

How Is ROE Calculated?

ROE can be calculated by using the formula:

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

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Telstra is:

13% = AU$2.1b ÷ AU$15b (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019).

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$0.13 in profit.

Does Telstra Have A Good ROE?

One simple way to determine if a company has a good return on equity is to compare it to the average for its industry. The limitation of this approach is that some companies are quite different from others, even within the same industry classification. As you can see in the graphic below, Telstra has a higher ROE than the average (11%) in the Telecom industry.

ASX:TLS Past Revenue and Net Income April 16th 2020
ASX:TLS Past Revenue and Net Income April 16th 2020

That's clearly a positive. However, bear in mind that a high ROE doesn’t necessarily indicate efficient profit generation. A higher proportion of debt in a company's capital structure may also result in a high ROE, where the high debt levels could be a huge risk . You can see the 5 risks we have identified for Telstra by visiting our risks dashboard for free on our platform here.

The Importance Of Debt To Return On Equity

Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. That cash can come from retained earnings, issuing new shares (equity), or debt. In the first two cases, the ROE will capture this use of capital to grow. In the latter case, the debt used for growth will improve returns, but won't affect the total equity. In this manner the use of debt will boost ROE, even though the core economics of the business stay the same.

Combining Telstra's Debt And Its 13% Return On Equity

Telstra clearly uses a high amount of debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 1.11. While its ROE is respectable, it is worth keeping in mind that there is usually a limit as to how much debt a company can use. Debt does bring extra risk, so it's only really worthwhile when a company generates some decent returns from it.

Conclusion

Return on equity is one way we can compare its business quality of different companies. Companies that can achieve high returns on equity without too much debt are generally of good quality. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.

Having said that, while ROE is a useful indicator of business quality, you'll have to look at a whole range of factors to determine the right price to buy a stock. 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 Telstra 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.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.

About ASX:TLS

Telstra Group

Telstra Group Limited provides telecommunications and information services to businesses, governments, and individuals in Australia and internationally.

The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.

Analysis AreaScore (0-6)
Valuation4
Future Growth2
Past Performance1
Financial Health3
Dividends2

Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.

Good value with mediocre balance sheet.