Is Zhejiang Expressway Co Ltd’s (HKG:576) ROE Of 13.24% Sustainable?

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With an ROE of 13.24%, Zhejiang Expressway Co Ltd (HKG:576) outpaced its own industry which delivered a less exciting 10.21% over the past year. Though, the impressiveness of 576’s ROE is contingent on whether this industry-beating level can be sustained. This can be measured by looking at the company’s financial leverage. With more debt, 576 can invest even more and earn more money, thus pushing up its returns. However, ROE only measures returns against equity, not debt. This can be distorted, so let’s take a look at it further.

Check out our latest analysis for Zhejiang Expressway

Breaking down Return on Equity

Return on Equity (ROE) is a measure of Zhejiang Expressway’s profit relative to its shareholders’ equity. For example, if the company invests HK$1 in the form of equity, it will generate HK$0.13 in earnings from this. If investors diversify their portfolio by industry, they may want to maximise their return in the Highways and Railtracks sector by investing in the highest returning stock. However, this can be misleading as each firm has different costs of equity and debt levels i.e. the more debt Zhejiang Expressway has, the higher ROE is pumped up in the short term, at the expense of long term interest payment burden.

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders Equity

ROE is measured against cost of equity in order to determine the efficiency of Zhejiang Expressway’s equity capital deployed. Its cost of equity is 9.36%. Since Zhejiang Expressway’s return covers its cost in excess of 3.88%, its use of equity capital is efficient and likely to be sustainable. Simply put, Zhejiang Expressway pays less for its capital than what it generates in return. ROE can be split up into three useful ratios: net profit margin, asset turnover, and financial leverage. This is called the Dupont Formula:

Dupont Formula

ROE = profit margin × asset turnover × financial leverage

ROE = (annual net profit ÷ sales) × (sales ÷ assets) × (assets ÷ shareholders’ equity)

ROE = annual net profit ÷ shareholders’ equity

SEHK:576 Last Perf July 21st 18
SEHK:576 Last Perf July 21st 18

The first component is profit margin, which measures how much of sales is retained after the company pays for all its expenses. Asset turnover reveals how much revenue can be generated from Zhejiang Expressway’s asset base. The most interesting ratio, and reflective of sustainability of its ROE, is financial leverage. We can determine if Zhejiang Expressway’s ROE is inflated by borrowing high levels of debt. Generally, a balanced capital structure means its returns will be sustainable over the long run. We can examine this by looking at Zhejiang Expressway’s debt-to-equity ratio. The most recent ratio is 34.96%, which is sensible and indicates Zhejiang Expressway has not taken on too much leverage. Thus, we can conclude its above-average ROE is generated from its capacity to increase profit without a large debt burden.

SEHK:576 Historical Debt July 21st 18
SEHK:576 Historical Debt July 21st 18

Next Steps:

While ROE is a relatively simple calculation, it can be broken down into different ratios, each telling a different story about the strengths and weaknesses of a company. Zhejiang Expressway’s above-industry ROE is encouraging, and is also in excess of its cost of equity. Its high ROE is not likely to be driven by high debt. Therefore, investors may have more confidence in the sustainability of this level of returns going forward. Although ROE can be a useful metric, it is only a small part of diligent research.

For Zhejiang Expressway, I’ve put together three fundamental factors you should look at:

  1. Financial Health: Does it have a healthy balance sheet? Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis with six simple checks on key factors like leverage and risk.
  2. Valuation: What is Zhejiang Expressway worth today? Is the stock undervalued, even when its growth outlook is factored into its intrinsic value? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether Zhejiang Expressway is currently mispriced by the market.
  3. Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of Zhejiang Expressway? Explore our interactive list of stocks with large growth potential to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!

To help readers see pass 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.