Is EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG’s (FRA:EBK) ROE Of 12% Impressive?

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 EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG (FRA:EBK).

Over the last twelve months EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg has recorded a ROE of 12%. Another way to think of that is that for every €1 worth of equity in the company, it was able to earn €0.12.

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How Do You Calculate ROE?

The formula for ROE is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders’ Equity

Or for EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg:

12% = 654.1 ÷ €6.6b (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Most readers would understand what net profit is, but it’s worth explaining the concept of shareholders’ equity. 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 Return On Equity Signify?

ROE looks at the amount a company earns relative to the money it has kept within the business. The ‘return’ is the yearly profit. That means that the higher the ROE, the more profitable the company is. 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 EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg 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. Pleasingly, EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg has a superior ROE than the average (8.0%) company in the Electric Utilities industry.

DB:EBK Last Perf January 30th 19
DB:EBK Last Perf January 30th 19

That’s what I like to see. In my book, a high ROE almost always warrants a closer look. For example you might check if insiders are buying shares.

How Does Debt Impact ROE?

Most companies need money — from somewhere — 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. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.

Combining EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg’s Debt And Its 12% Return On Equity

EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg clearly uses a significant amount debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 1.08. while its ROE is respectable, it is worth keeping in mind that there is usually a limit to how much debt a company can use. 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 a useful indicator of the ability of a business to generate profits and return them to shareholders. Companies that can achieve high returns on equity without too much debt are generally of good quality. 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. You can see how the company has grow in the past by looking at this FREE detailed graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.