Boasting A 24% Return On Equity, Is H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB (publ) (STO:HM B) A Top Quality Stock?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
March 11, 2020
OM:HM B

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 H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB (publ) (STO:HM B).

H & M Hennes & Mauritz has a ROE of 24%, based on the last twelve months. That means that for every SEK1 worth of shareholders' equity, it generated SEK0.24 in profit.

See our latest analysis for H & M Hennes & Mauritz

How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for ROE is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity

Or for H & M Hennes & Mauritz:

24% = kr13b ÷ kr57b (Based on the trailing twelve months to November 2019.)

Most readers would understand what net profit is, but it’s worth explaining the concept of shareholders’ equity. It is all the money paid into the company from shareholders, plus any earnings retained. The easiest way to calculate shareholders' equity is to subtract the company's total liabilities from the total assets.

What Does ROE Mean?

ROE measures a company's profitability against the profit it retains, and any outside investments. The 'return' is the yearly profit. The higher the ROE, the more profit the company is making. So, as a general rule, a high ROE is a good thing. Clearly, then, one can use ROE to compare different companies.

Does H & M Hennes & Mauritz Have A Good Return On Equity?

By comparing a company's ROE with its industry average, we can get a quick measure of how good it is. Importantly, this is far from a perfect measure, because companies differ significantly within the same industry classification. As is clear from the image below, H & M Hennes & Mauritz has a better ROE than the average (9.9%) in the Specialty Retail industry.

OM:HM B Past Revenue and Net Income, March 11th 2020
OM:HM B Past Revenue and Net Income, March 11th 2020

That's what I like to see. In my book, a high ROE almost always warrants a closer look. For example, I often check if insiders have been buying shares.

Why You Should Consider Debt When Looking At ROE

Most companies need money -- from somewhere -- to grow their profits. That cash can come from retained earnings, issuing new shares (equity), 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. In this manner the use of debt will boost ROE, even though the core economics of the business stay the same.

Combining H & M Hennes & Mauritz's Debt And Its 24% Return On Equity

H & M Hennes & Mauritz has a debt to equity ratio of 0.30, which is far from excessive. Its ROE is very impressive, and given only modest debt, this suggests the business is high quality. Judicious use of debt to improve returns can certainly be a good thing, although it does elevate risk slightly and reduce future optionality.

In Summary

Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. A company that can achieve a high return on equity without debt could be considered a high quality business. All else being equal, a higher ROE is better.

But when a business is high quality, the market often bids it up to a price that reflects this. Profit growth rates, versus the expectations reflected in the price of the stock, are a particularly important to consider. So I think it may be worth checking this free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.

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