Will Q-Soft Verwaltungs AG (BST:QS6A) Continue To Underperform Its Industry?

Q-Soft Verwaltungs AG (BST:QS6A) generated a below-average return on equity of 9.18% in the past 12 months, while its industry returned 12.43%. QS6A’s results could indicate a relatively inefficient operation to its peers, and while this may be the case, it is important to understand what ROE is made up of and how it should be interpreted. Knowing these components could change your view on QS6A’s performance. Today I will look at how components such as financial leverage can influence ROE which may impact the sustainability of QS6A’s returns. See our latest analysis for Q-Soft Verwaltungs

Breaking down Return on Equity

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. Investors that are diversifying their portfolio based on industry may want to maximise their return in the Application Software sector by choosing the highest returning stock. But this can be misleading as each company has different costs of equity and also varying debt levels, which could artificially push up ROE whilst 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 Q-Soft Verwaltungs, which is 9.86%. This means Q-Soft Verwaltungs’s returns actually do not cover its own cost of equity, with a discrepancy of -0.67%. This isn’t sustainable as it implies, very simply, that the company pays more for its capital than what it generates in return. ROE can be broken down into three different 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

BST:QS6A Last Perf Mar 22nd 18
BST:QS6A Last Perf Mar 22nd 18

The first component is profit margin, which measures how much of sales is retained after the company pays for all its expenses. The other component, asset turnover, illustrates how much revenue Q-Soft Verwaltungs can make from its asset base. And finally, financial leverage is simply how much of assets are funded by equity, which exhibits how sustainable the company’s capital structure is. ROE can be inflated by disproportionately high levels of debt. This is also unsustainable due to the high interest cost that the company will also incur. Thus, we should look at Q-Soft Verwaltungs’s debt-to-equity ratio to examine sustainability of its returns. Currently the ratio stands at 182.57%, which is relatively high. This means Q-Soft Verwaltungs’s below-average ROE is already being driven by its high leverage and its ability to grow profit hinges on a large debt burden.

BST:QS6A Historical Debt Mar 22nd 18
BST:QS6A Historical Debt Mar 22nd 18

Next Steps:

While ROE is a relatively simple calculation, it can be broken down into different ratios, each telling a different story about the strengths and weaknesses of a company. Q-Soft Verwaltungs’s below-industry ROE is disappointing, furthermore, its returns were not even high enough to cover its own cost of equity. Although, its appropriate level of leverage means investors can be more confident in the sustainability of Q-Soft Verwaltungs’s return with a possible increase should the company decide to increase its debt levels. ROE is a helpful signal, but it is definitely not sufficient on its own to make an investment decision.

For Q-Soft Verwaltungs, there are three key factors you should further examine: