While not a mind-blowing move, it is good to see that the China Gas Holdings Limited (HKG:384) share price has gained 17% in the last three months. Meanwhile over the last three years the stock has dropped hard. Indeed, the share price is down a tragic 60% in the last three years. Some might say the recent bounce is to be expected after such a bad drop. Perhaps the company has turned over a new leaf.
While the last three years has been tough for China Gas Holdings shareholders, this past week has shown signs of promise. So let's look at the longer term fundamentals and see if they've been the driver of the negative returns.
To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' 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 Gas Holdings actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) improve by 2.6% per year. This is quite a puzzle, and suggests there might be something temporarily buoying the share price. Or else the company was over-hyped in the past, and so its growth has disappointed.
It's pretty reasonable to suspect the market was previously to bullish on the stock, and has since moderated expectations. Looking to other metrics might better explain the share price change.
We note that the dividend seems healthy enough, so that probably doesn't explain the share price drop. China Gas Holdings has maintained its top line over three years, so we doubt that has shareholders worried. A closer look at revenue and profit trends might yield insights.
You can see how earnings and revenue have changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).
China Gas Holdings is a well known stock, with plenty of analyst coverage, suggesting some visibility into future growth. You can see what analysts are predicting for China Gas Holdings in this interactive graph of future profit estimates.
What About Dividends?
It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. 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. We note that for China Gas Holdings the TSR over the last 3 years was -57%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!
A Different Perspective
While the broader market lost about 21% in the twelve months, China Gas Holdings shareholders did even worse, losing 52% (even including dividends). However, it could simply be that the share price has been impacted by broader market jitters. It might be worth keeping an eye on the fundamentals, in case there's a good opportunity. Unfortunately, last year's performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 4% 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. 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 3 warning signs for China Gas Holdings you should be aware of, and 1 of them is a bit unpleasant.
If you would prefer to check out another company -- one with potentially superior financials -- then do not miss this free list of companies that have proven they can 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. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.