Should You Expect Northland Power Inc (TSE:NPI) To Continue Delivering An ROE Of 23.23%?

The content of this article will benefit those of you who are starting to educate yourself about investing in the stock market and looking to gauge the potential return on investment in Northland Power Inc (TSE:NPI).

Northland Power Inc (TSE:NPI) delivered an ROE of 23.23% over the past 12 months, which is an impressive feat relative to its industry average of 2.08% during the same period. Though, the impressiveness of NPI’s ROE is contingent on whether this industry-beating level can be sustained. This can be measured by looking at the company’s financial leverage. With more debt, NPI can invest even more and earn more money, thus pushing up its returns. However, ROE only measures returns against equity, not debt. This can be distorted, so let’s take a look at it further. See our latest analysis for Northland Power

What you must know about ROE

Firstly, Return on Equity, or ROE, is simply the percentage of last years’ earning against the book value of shareholders’ equity. It essentially shows how much the company can generate in earnings given the amount of equity it has raised. If investors diversify their portfolio by industry, they may want to maximise their return in the Independent Power Producers and Energy Traders sector by investing in the highest returning stock. However, this can be deceiving as each company has varying costs of equity and debt levels, which could exaggeratedly push up ROE at the same time as accumulating high interest expense.

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders Equity

ROE is assessed against cost of equity, which is measured using the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) – but let’s not dive into the details of that today. For now, let’s just look at the cost of equity number for Northland Power, which is 9.74%. Since Northland Power’s return covers its cost in excess of 13.50%, its use of equity capital is efficient and likely to be sustainable. Simply put, Northland Power pays less for its capital than what it generates in return. ROE can be split up into three useful ratios: net profit margin, asset turnover, and financial leverage. This is called the Dupont Formula:

Dupont Formula

ROE = profit margin × asset turnover × financial leverage

ROE = (annual net profit ÷ sales) × (sales ÷ assets) × (assets ÷ shareholders’ equity)

ROE = annual net profit ÷ shareholders’ equity

TSX:NPI Last Perf June 26th 18
TSX:NPI Last Perf June 26th 18

Essentially, profit margin shows how much money the company makes after paying for all its expenses. The other component, asset turnover, illustrates how much revenue Northland Power can make from its asset base. Finally, financial leverage will be our main focus today. It shows how much of assets are funded by equity and can show how sustainable the company’s capital structure is. We can determine if Northland Power’s ROE is inflated by borrowing high levels of debt. Generally, a balanced capital structure means its returns will be sustainable over the long run. We can examine this by looking at Northland Power’s debt-to-equity ratio. Currently the ratio stands at more than 2.5 times, which is very high. This means Northland Power’s above-average ROE is being driven by its significant debt levels and its ability to grow profit hinges on a significant debt burden.

TSX:NPI Historical Debt June 26th 18
TSX:NPI Historical Debt June 26th 18

Next Steps:

ROE is one of many ratios which meaningfully dissects financial statements, which illustrates the quality of a company. Northland Power exhibits a strong ROE against its peers, as well as sufficient returns to cover its cost of equity. Its high debt level means its strong ROE may be driven by debt funding which raises concerns over the sustainability of Northland Power’s returns. ROE is a helpful signal, but it is definitely not sufficient on its own to make an investment decision.

For Northland Power, I’ve put together three key aspects you should further examine:

  1. Financial Health: Does it have a healthy balance sheet? Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis with six simple checks on key factors like leverage and risk.
  2. Valuation: What is Northland Power worth today? Is the stock undervalued, even when its growth outlook is factored into its intrinsic value? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether Northland Power is currently mispriced by the market.
  3. Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of Northland Power? Explore our interactive list of stocks with large growth potential to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!