Many investors define successful investing as beating the market average over the long term. But if you try your hand at stock picking, your risk returning less than the market. Unfortunately, that's been the case for longer term China Coal Energy Company Limited (HKG:1898) shareholders, since the share price is down 51% in the last three years, falling well short of the market decline of around 8.6%. And more recent buyers are having a tough time too, with a drop of 42% in the last year. Unhappily, the share price slid 1.6% in the last week.
To paraphrase Benjamin Graham: Over the short term the market is a voting machine, but over the long term it's a weighing machine. 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).
During the unfortunate three years of share price decline, China Coal Energy actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) improve by 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). Alternatively, growth expectations may have been unreasonable in the past.
Since the change in EPS doesn't seem to correlate with the change in share price, it's worth taking a look at other metrics.
We note that the dividend seems healthy enough, so that probably doesn't explain the share price drop. We like that China Coal Energy has actually grown its revenue over the last three years. If the company can keep growing revenue, there may be an opportunity for investors. You might have to dig deeper to understand the recent share price weakness.
You can see how earnings and revenue have changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).
We're pleased to report that the CEO is remunerated more modestly than most CEOs at similarly capitalized companies. But while CEO remuneration is always worth checking, the really important question is whether the company can grow earnings going forward. If you are thinking of buying or selling China Coal Energy stock, you should check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.
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 is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. We note that for China Coal Energy the TSR over the last 3 years was -44%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.
A Different Perspective
China Coal Energy shareholders are down 38% for the year (even including dividends), but the market itself is up 3.9%. 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 7% 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. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for China Coal Energy you should be aware of.
Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of companies we expect will grow earnings.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on HK exchanges.
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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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