Stock Analysis

Has Science Group plc's (LON:SAG) Impressive Stock Performance Got Anything to Do With Its Fundamentals?

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AIM:SAG
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Most readers would already be aware that Science Group's (LON:SAG) stock increased significantly by 18% over the past three months. As most would know, fundamentals are what usually guide market price movements over the long-term, so we decided to look at the company's key financial indicators today to determine if they have any role to play in the recent price movement. Particularly, we will be paying attention to Science Group's ROE today.

ROE or return on equity is a useful tool to assess how effectively a company can generate returns on the investment it received from its shareholders. Simply put, it is used to assess the profitability of a company in relation to its equity capital.

Check out our latest analysis for Science Group

How Is ROE Calculated?

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 Science Group is:

17% = UK£7.0m ÷ UK£41m (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2020).

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 £0.17 in profit.

What Has ROE Got To Do With Earnings Growth?

So far, we've learned that ROE is a measure of a company's profitability. We now need to evaluate how much profit the company reinvests or "retains" for future growth which then gives us an idea about the growth potential of the company. 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.

Science Group's Earnings Growth And 17% ROE

To start with, Science Group's ROE looks acceptable. On comparing with the average industry ROE of 13% the company's ROE looks pretty remarkable. As you might expect, the 8.6% net income decline reported by Science Group is a bit of a surprise. Based on this, we feel that there might be other reasons which haven't been discussed so far in this article that could be hampering the company's growth. These include low earnings retention or poor allocation of capital.

So, as a next step, we compared Science Group's performance against the industry and were disappointed to discover that while the company has been shrinking its earnings, the industry has been growing its earnings at a rate of 10% in the same period.

past-earnings-growth
AIM:SAG Past Earnings Growth March 12th 2021

The basis for attaching value to a company is, to a great extent, tied to its earnings growth. The investor should try to establish if the expected growth or decline in earnings, whichever the case may be, is priced in. By doing so, they will have an idea if the stock is headed into clear blue waters or if swampy waters await. One good indicator of expected earnings growth is the P/E ratio which determines the price the market is willing to pay for a stock based on its earnings prospects. So, you may want to check if Science Group is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to its industry.

Is Science Group Using Its Retained Earnings Effectively?

In spite of a normal three-year median payout ratio of 43% (that is, a retention ratio of 57%), the fact that Science Group's earnings have shrunk is quite puzzling. So there could be some other explanations in that regard. For instance, the company's business may be deteriorating.

In addition, Science Group has been paying dividends over a period of eight years suggesting that keeping up dividend payments is preferred by the management even though earnings have been in decline. Our latest analyst data shows that the future payout ratio of the company is expected to drop to 25% over the next three years.

Summary

In total, it does look like Science Group has some positive aspects to its business. However, given the high ROE and high profit retention, we would expect the company to be delivering strong earnings growth, but that isn't the case here. This suggests that there might be some external threat to the business, that's hampering its growth. While we won't completely dismiss the company, what we would do, is try to ascertain how risky the business is to make a more informed decision around the company. Our risks dashboard would have the 3 risks we have identified for Science Group.

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