Can UP Global Sourcing Holdings plc (LON:UPGS) Maintain Its Strong Returns?

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 UP Global Sourcing Holdings plc (LON:UPGS).

Over the last twelve months UP Global Sourcing Holdings has recorded a ROE of 49%. One way to conceptualize this, is that for each £1 of shareholders’ equity it has, the company made £0.49 in profit.

View our latest analysis for UP Global Sourcing Holdings

How Do I Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for ROE is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders’ Equity

Or for UP Global Sourcing Holdings:

49% = UK£4m ÷ UK£9m (Based on the trailing twelve months to July 2018.)

It’s easy to understand the ‘net profit’ part of that equation, but ‘shareholders’ equity’ requires further explanation. It is the capital paid in by shareholders, plus any retained earnings. The easiest way to calculate shareholders’ equity is to subtract the company’s total liabilities from the total assets.

What Does Return On Equity Signify?

ROE measures a company’s profitability against the profit it retains, and any outside investments. The ‘return’ is the profit over the last twelve months. A higher profit will lead to a higher ROE. So, all else equal, investors should like a high ROE. Clearly, then, one can use ROE to compare different companies.

Does UP Global Sourcing Holdings Have A Good ROE?

By comparing a company’s ROE with its industry average, we can get a quick measure of how good it is. However, this method is only useful as a rough check, because companies do differ quite a bit within the same industry classification. As you can see in the graphic below, UP Global Sourcing Holdings has a higher ROE than the average (17%) in the retail distributors industry.

LSE:UPGS Last Perf November 8th 18
LSE:UPGS Last Perf November 8th 18

That’s clearly a positive. I usually take a closer look when a company has a better ROE than industry peers. For example you might check if insiders are buying shares.

How Does Debt Impact Return On Equity?

Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. That cash can come from issuing shares, retained earnings, or debt. In the case of the first and second options, the ROE will reflect this use of cash, for growth. In the latter case, the use of debt will improve the returns, but will not change the equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.

UP Global Sourcing Holdings’s Debt And Its 49% ROE

UP Global Sourcing Holdings clearly uses a significant amount debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 1.47. I think the ROE is impressive, but it would have been assisted by the use of debt. Debt increases risk and reduces options for the company in the future, so you generally want to see some good returns from using it.

In Summary

Return on equity is a useful indicator of the ability of a business to generate profits and return them to shareholders. In my book 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: UP Global Sourcing Holdings 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.

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.