Did BCE Inc. (TSE:BCE) Use Debt To Deliver Its ROE Of 13%?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
January 11, 2022
TSX:BCE
Source: Shutterstock

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. By way of learning-by-doing, we'll look at ROE to gain a better understanding of BCE Inc. (TSE:BCE).

ROE or return on equity is a useful tool to assess how effectively a company can generate returns on the investment it received from its shareholders. Simply put, it is used to assess the profitability of a company in relation to its equity capital.

See our latest analysis for BCE

How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?

Return on equity 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 BCE is:

13% = CA$3.0b ÷ CA$24b (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2021).

The 'return' is the profit over the last twelve months. One way to conceptualize this is that for each CA$1 of shareholders' capital it has, the company made CA$0.13 in profit.

Does BCE Have A Good Return On Equity?

Arguably the easiest way to assess company's ROE is to compare it with the average in its industry. The limitation of this approach is that some companies are quite different from others, even within the same industry classification. The image below shows that BCE has an ROE that is roughly in line with the Telecom industry average (13%).

roe
TSX:BCE Return on Equity January 11th 2022

That's neither particularly good, nor bad. Even if the ROE is respectable when compared to the industry, its worth checking if the firm's ROE is being aided by high debt levels. If a company takes on too much debt, it is at higher risk of defaulting on interest payments. To know the 2 risks we have identified for BCE visit our risks dashboard for free.

How Does Debt Impact Return On Equity?

Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. That cash can come from issuing shares, retained earnings, or debt. In the case of the first and second options, the ROE will reflect this use of cash, for growth. In the latter case, the use of debt will improve the returns, but will not change the equity. In this manner the use of debt will boost ROE, even though the core economics of the business stay the same.

BCE's Debt And Its 13% ROE

It's worth noting the high use of debt by BCE, leading to its debt to equity ratio of 1.24. While its ROE is pretty respectable, the amount of debt the company is carrying currently is not ideal. Investors should think carefully about how a company might perform if it was unable to borrow so easily, because credit markets do change over time.

Summary

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 around the same level of debt to equity, and one has a higher ROE, I'd generally prefer the one with higher ROE.

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. Profit growth rates, versus the expectations reflected in the price of the stock, are a particularly important to consider. So you might want to check this FREE visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.

Of course BCE 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.

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