Should You Be Impressed By Deutsche Telekom AG’s (FRA:DTE) ROE?

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Many investors are still learning about the various metrics that can be useful when analysing a stock. This article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE). To keep the lesson grounded in practicality, we’ll use ROE to better understand Deutsche Telekom AG (FRA:DTE).

Deutsche Telekom has a ROE of 7.9%, based on the last twelve months. One way to conceptualize this, is that for each €1 of shareholders’ equity it has, the company made €0.079 in profit.

See our latest analysis for Deutsche Telekom

How Do I Calculate ROE?

The formula for return on equity is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders’ Equity

Or for Deutsche Telekom:

7.9% = €2.1b ÷ €43b (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Most know that net profit is the total earnings after all expenses, but the concept of shareholders’ equity is a little more complicated. It is all earnings retained by the company, plus any capital paid in by shareholders. You can calculate shareholders’ equity by subtracting the company’s total liabilities from its total assets.

What Does ROE Signify?

Return on Equity measures a company’s profitability against the profit it has kept for the business (plus any capital injections). The ‘return’ is the yearly profit. The higher the ROE, the more profit the company is making. So, as a general rule, a high ROE is a good thing. That means it can be interesting to compare the ROE of different companies.

Does Deutsche Telekom Have A Good ROE?

Arguably the easiest way to assess company’s ROE is to compare it with the average in its industry. However, this method is only useful as a rough check, because companies do differ quite a bit within the same industry classification. Pleasingly, Deutsche Telekom has a superior ROE than the average (5.9%) company in the Telecom industry.

DB:DTE Past Revenue and Net Income, June 25th 2019
DB:DTE Past Revenue and Net Income, June 25th 2019

That’s clearly a positive. We think a high ROE, alone, is usually enough to justify further research into a company. For example, I often check if insiders have been buying shares .

The Importance Of Debt To 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 first and second cases, the ROE will reflect this use of cash for investment in the business. In the latter case, the debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders’ equity. In this manner the use of debt will boost ROE, even though the core economics of the business stay the same.

Deutsche Telekom’s Debt And Its 7.9% ROE

Deutsche Telekom does use a significant amount of debt to increase returns. It has a debt to equity ratio of 1.54. Its ROE isn’t too bad, but it would probably be very disappointing if the company had to stop using debt. Debt increases risk and reduces options for the company in the future, so you generally want to see some good returns from using it.

But It’s Just One Metric

Return on equity is one way we can compare the business quality of different companies. In my book the highest quality companies have high return on equity, despite low debt. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.

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. The rate at which profits are likely to grow, relative to the expectations of profit growth reflected in the current price, must be considered, too. So I think it may be worth checking this free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

But note: Deutsche Telekom may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with high ROE and low debt.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.