Prudential (LON:PRU) investors are sitting on a loss of 16% if they invested three years ago

By
Simply Wall St
Published
April 11, 2022
LSE:PRU
Source: Shutterstock

In order to justify the effort of selecting individual stocks, it's worth striving to beat the returns from a market index fund. But its virtually certain that sometimes you will buy stocks that fall short of the market average returns. We regret to report that long term Prudential plc (LON:PRU) shareholders have had that experience, with the share price dropping 34% in three years, versus a market return of about 14%. And more recent buyers are having a tough time too, with a drop of 29% in the last year. Shareholders have had an even rougher run lately, with the share price down 15% in the last 90 days.

So let's have a look and see if the longer term performance of the company has been in line with the underlying business' progress.

View our latest analysis for Prudential

To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company's share price and its earnings per share (EPS).

Prudential saw its EPS decline at a compound rate of 11% per year, over the last three years. This change in EPS is reasonably close to the 13% average annual decrease in the share price. So it seems that investor expectations of the company are staying pretty steady, despite the disappointment. Rather, the share price has approximately tracked EPS growth.

The image below shows how EPS has tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).

earnings-per-share-growth
LSE:PRU Earnings Per Share Growth April 11th 2022

It's probably worth noting we've seen significant insider buying in the last quarter, which we consider a positive. On the other hand, we think the revenue and earnings trends are much more meaningful measures of the business. Dive deeper into the earnings by checking this interactive graph of Prudential's earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. As it happens, Prudential's TSR for the last 3 years was -16%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

Investors in Prudential had a tough year, with a total loss of 26% (including dividends), against a market gain of about 6.3%. However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. Regrettably, last year's performance caps off a bad run, with the shareholders facing a total loss of 2% per year over five years. We realise that Baron Rothschild has said investors should "buy when there is blood on the streets", but we caution that investors should first be sure they are buying a high quality business. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. For example, we've discovered 1 warning sign for Prudential that you should be aware of before investing here.

There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. You probably do not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on GB exchanges.

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