freenet AG's (ETR:FNTN) Stock Is Rallying But Financials Look Ambiguous: Will The Momentum Continue?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
February 24, 2022
XTRA:FNTN
Source: Shutterstock

Most readers would already be aware that freenet's (ETR:FNTN) stock increased significantly by 5.5% over the past month. However, we wonder if the company's inconsistent financials would have any adverse impact on the current share price momentum. Particularly, we will be paying attention to freenet's ROE today.

Return on Equity or ROE is a test of how effectively a company is growing its value and managing investors’ money. In simpler terms, it measures the profitability of a company in relation to shareholder's equity.

See our latest analysis for freenet

How To Calculate Return On Equity?

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 freenet is:

11% = €182m ÷ €1.6b (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2021).

The 'return' is the income the business earned over the last year. One way to conceptualize this is that for each €1 of shareholders' capital it has, the company made €0.11 in profit.

Why Is ROE Important For Earnings Growth?

Thus far, we have learned that ROE measures how efficiently a company is generating its profits. Depending on how much of these profits the company reinvests or "retains", and how effectively it does so, we are then able to assess a company’s earnings growth potential. Assuming all else is equal, companies that have both a higher return on equity and higher profit retention are usually the ones that have a higher growth rate when compared to companies that don't have the same features.

A Side By Side comparison of freenet's Earnings Growth And 11% ROE

To begin with, freenet seems to have a respectable ROE. And on comparing with the industry, we found that the the average industry ROE is similar at 11%. As you might expect, the 7.8% net income decline reported by freenet is a bit of a surprise. We reckon that there could be some other factors at play here that are preventing the company's growth. For example, it could be that the company has a high payout ratio or the business has allocated capital poorly, for instance.

However, when we compared freenet's growth with the industry we found that while the company's earnings have been shrinking, the industry has seen an earnings growth of 7.9% in the same period. This is quite worrisome.

past-earnings-growth
XTRA:FNTN Past Earnings Growth February 24th 2022

Earnings growth is a huge factor in stock valuation. It’s important for an investor to know whether the market has priced in the company's expected earnings growth (or decline). By doing so, they will have an idea if the stock is headed into clear blue waters or if swampy waters await. If you're wondering about freenet's's valuation, check out this gauge of its price-to-earnings ratio, as compared to its industry.

Is freenet Efficiently Re-investing Its Profits?

freenet has a high three-year median payout ratio of 93% (that is, it is retaining 6.5% of its profits). This suggests that the company is paying most of its profits as dividends to its shareholders. This goes some way in explaining why its earnings have been shrinking. With only very little left to reinvest into the business, growth in earnings is far from likely.

Moreover, freenet has been paying dividends for at least ten years or more suggesting that management must have perceived that the shareholders prefer dividends over earnings growth. Based on the latest analysts' estimates, we found that the company's future payout ratio over the next three years is expected to hold steady at 77%. Still, forecasts suggest that freenet's future ROE will rise to 16% even though the the company's payout ratio is not expected to change by much.

Summary

On the whole, we feel that the performance shown by freenet can be open to many interpretations. In spite of the high ROE, the company has failed to see growth in its earnings due to it paying out most of its profits as dividend, with almost nothing left to invest into its own business. Having said that, looking at current analyst estimates, we found that the company's earnings growth rate is expected to see a huge improvement. To know more about the company's future earnings growth forecasts take a look at this free report on analyst forecasts for the company to find out more.

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