AstraZeneca PLC's (LON:AZN) Dismal Stock Performance Reflects Weak Fundamentals

By
Simply Wall St
Published
January 16, 2022
LSE:AZN
Source: Shutterstock

With its stock down 2.9% over the past three months, it is easy to disregard AstraZeneca (LON:AZN). We decided to study the company's financials to determine if the downtrend will continue as the long-term performance of a company usually dictates market outcomes. In this article, we decided to focus on AstraZeneca's ROE.

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. In short, ROE shows the profit each dollar generates with respect to its shareholder investments.

Check out our latest analysis for AstraZeneca

How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?

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 AstraZeneca is:

3.7% = US$1.5b ÷ US$40b (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2021).

The 'return' is the amount earned after tax over the last twelve months. So, this means that for every £1 of its shareholder's investments, the company generates a profit of £0.04.

What Has ROE Got To Do With Earnings Growth?

Thus far, we have learned that ROE measures how efficiently a company is generating its profits. 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 everything else remains unchanged, the higher the ROE and profit retention, the higher the growth rate of a company compared to companies that don't necessarily bear these characteristics.

A Side By Side comparison of AstraZeneca's Earnings Growth And 3.7% ROE

At first glance, AstraZeneca's ROE doesn't look very promising. A quick further study shows that the company's ROE doesn't compare favorably to the industry average of 8.8% either. Given the circumstances, the significant decline in net income by 5.4% seen by AstraZeneca over the last five years is not surprising. We reckon that there could also be other factors at play here. Such as - low earnings retention or poor allocation of capital.

From the 5.4% decline reported by the industry in the same period, we infer that AstraZeneca and its industry are both shrinking at a similar rate.

past-earnings-growth
LSE:AZN Past Earnings Growth January 16th 2022

Earnings growth is an important metric to consider when valuing a stock. 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. If you're wondering about AstraZeneca's's valuation, check out this gauge of its price-to-earnings ratio, as compared to its industry.

Is AstraZeneca Efficiently Re-investing Its Profits?

AstraZeneca's high three-year median payout ratio of 164% suggests that the company is depleting its resources to keep up its dividend payments, and this shows in its shrinking earnings. Its usually very hard to sustain dividend payments that are higher than reported profits. To know the 5 risks we have identified for AstraZeneca visit our risks dashboard for free.

Additionally, AstraZeneca has paid dividends over a period of at least ten years, which means that the company's management is determined to pay dividends even if it means little to no earnings growth. Existing analyst estimates suggest that the company's future payout ratio is expected to drop to 35% over the next three years. As a result, the expected drop in AstraZeneca's payout ratio explains the anticipated rise in the company's future ROE to 69%, over the same period.

Summary

On the whole, AstraZeneca's performance is quite a big let-down. The low ROE, combined with the fact that the company is paying out almost if not all, of its profits as dividends, has resulted in the lack or absence of growth in its earnings. With that said, we studied the latest analyst forecasts and found that while the company has shrunk its earnings in the past, analysts expect its earnings to grow in the future. Are these analysts expectations based on the broad expectations for the industry, or on the company's fundamentals? Click here to be taken to our analyst's forecasts page for the company.

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