Great-West Lifeco Inc. (TSE:GWO) shareholders should be happy to see the share price up 12% in the last quarter. But that doesn't help the fact that the three year return is less impressive. Truth be told the share price declined 16% in three years and that return, Dear Reader, falls short of what you could have got from passive investing with an index fund.
While the efficient markets hypothesis continues to be taught by some, it has been proven that markets are over-reactive dynamic systems, and investors are not always rational. One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.
During the unfortunate three years of share price decline, Great-West Lifeco actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) improve by 3.7% per year. Given the share price reaction, one might suspect that EPS is not a good guide to the business performance during the period (perhaps due to a one-off loss or gain). Alternatively, growth expectations may have been unreasonable in the past.
It's pretty reasonable to suspect the market was previously to bullish on the stock, and has since moderated expectations. However, taking a look at other business metrics might shed a bit more light on the share price action.
We note that the dividend seems healthy enough, so that probably doesn't explain the share price drop. We like that Great-West Lifeco has actually grown its revenue over the last three years. But it's not clear to us why the share price is down. It might be worth diving deeper into the fundamentals, lest an opportunity goes begging.
The image below shows how earnings and revenue have tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).
We like that insiders have been buying shares in the last twelve months. Having said that, most people consider earnings and revenue growth trends to be a more meaningful guide to the business. This free report showing analyst forecasts should help you form a view on Great-West Lifeco
What About Dividends?
It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. 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. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. We note that for Great-West Lifeco the TSR over the last 3 years was -1.1%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
Investors in Great-West Lifeco had a tough year, with a total loss of 6.3% (including dividends), against a market gain of about 4.5%. However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. Longer term investors wouldn't be so upset, since they would have made 1.6%, each year, over five years. If the fundamental data continues to indicate long term sustainable growth, the current sell-off could be an opportunity worth considering. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. For example, we've discovered 1 warning sign for Great-West Lifeco that you should be aware of before investing here.
There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. You probably do not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on CA exchanges.
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Great-West Lifeco Inc., a financial services holding company, engages in the life and health insurance, retirement and investment services, asset management, and reinsurance businesses in Canada, the United States, and Europe.
Established dividend payer and good value.