One of the best investments we can make is in our own knowledge and skill set. With that in mind, this article will work through how we can use Return On Equity (ROE) to better understand a business. By way of learning-by-doing, we'll look at ROE to gain a better understanding of Devro plc (LON:DVO).
Return on equity or ROE is an important factor to be considered by a shareholder because it tells them how effectively their capital is being reinvested. Put another way, it reveals the company's success at turning shareholder investments into profits.
How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?
The formula for return on equity is:
Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity
So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Devro is:
23% = UK£23m ÷ UK£99m (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2020).
The 'return' is the yearly profit. One way to conceptualize this is that for each £1 of shareholders' capital it has, the company made £0.23 in profit.
Does Devro 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. As is clear from the image below, Devro has a better ROE than the average (9.4%) in the Food industry.
That's what we like to see. Bear in mind, a high ROE doesn't always mean superior financial performance. Aside from changes in net income, a high ROE can also be the outcome of high debt relative to equity, which indicates risk.
Why You Should Consider Debt When Looking At ROE
Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. That cash can come from issuing shares, retained earnings, or debt. In the first two cases, the ROE will capture this use of capital to grow. In the latter case, the debt used for growth will improve returns, but won't affect the total equity. That will make the ROE look better than if no debt was used.
Combining Devro's Debt And Its 23% Return On Equity
Devro does use a high amount of debt to increase returns. It has a debt to equity ratio of 1.35. While no doubt that its ROE is impressive, we would have been even more impressed had the company achieved this with lower debt. Debt does bring extra risk, so it's only really worthwhile when a company generates some decent returns from it.
Return on equity is one way we can compare its business quality of different companies. In our books, the highest quality companies have high return on equity, despite low debt. If two companies have around the same level of debt to equity, and one has a higher ROE, I'd generally prefer the one with higher ROE.
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: Devro 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.
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