Volatility 101: Should Northgate (LON:NTG) Shares Have Dropped 33%?

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Northgate plc (LON:NTG) shareholders should be happy to see the share price up 10% in the last month. But that doesn’t change the fact that the returns over the last five years have been less than pleasing. You would have done a lot better buying an index fund, since the stock has dropped 33% in that half decade.

See our latest analysis for Northgate

There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect underlying business performance. One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.

While the share price declined over five years, Northgate actually managed to increase EPS by an average of 5.2% per year. Given the share price reaction, one might suspect that EPS is not a good guide to the business performance during the period (perhaps due to a one-off loss or gain). Or possibly, the market was previously very optimistic, so the stock has disappointed, despite improving EPS. Due to the lack of correlation between the EPS growth and the falling share price, it’s worth taking a look at other metrics to try to understand the share price movement.

The steady dividend doesn’t really explain why the share price is down. It’s not immediately clear to us why the stock price is down but further research might provide some answers.

LSE:NTG Income Statement, July 18th 2019
LSE:NTG Income Statement, July 18th 2019

We know that Northgate has improved its bottom line lately, but what does the future have in store? You can see what analysts are predicting for Northgate in this interactive graph of future profit estimates.

What About Dividends?

When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. As it happens, Northgate’s TSR for the last 5 years was -20%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

While the broader market gained around 2.5% in the last year, Northgate shareholders lost 16% (even including dividends). Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. Unfortunately, last year’s performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 4.5% over the last half decade. Generally speaking long term share price weakness can be a bad sign, though contrarian investors might want to research the stock in hope of a turnaround. Keeping this in mind, a solid next step might be to take a look at Northgate’s dividend track record. This free interactive graph is a great place to start.

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

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.