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). We’ll use ROE to examine China Aviation Oil (Singapore) Corporation Ltd (SGX:G92), by way of a worked example.
Our data shows China Aviation Oil (Singapore) has a return on equity of 12% for the last year. Another way to think of that is that for every SGD1 worth of equity in the company, it was able to earn SGD0.12.
How Do I Calculate Return On Equity?
The formula for ROE is:
Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders’ Equity
Or for China Aviation Oil (Singapore):
12% = 90.65 ÷ US$750m (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)
It’s easy to understand the ‘net profit’ part of that equation, but ‘shareholders’ equity’ requires further explanation. It is the capital paid in by shareholders, plus any retained earnings. The easiest way to calculate shareholders’ equity is to subtract the company’s total liabilities from the total assets.
What Does ROE Signify?
ROE measures a company’s profitability against the profit it retains, and any outside investments. The ‘return’ is the amount earned after tax over the last twelve months. The higher the ROE, the more profit the company is making. So, all else equal, investors should like a high ROE. That means ROE can be used to compare two businesses.
Does China Aviation Oil (Singapore) Have A Good ROE?
One simple way to determine if a company has a good return on equity is to compare it to the average for its industry. Importantly, this is far from a perfect measure, because companies differ significantly within the same industry classification. The image below shows that China Aviation Oil (Singapore) has an ROE that is roughly in line with the oil and gas industry average (12%).
That isn’t amazing, but it is respectable. Generally it will take a while for decisions made by leadership to impact the ROE. So it makes sense to check how long the board and CEO have been in place.
How Does Debt Impact Return On Equity?
Virtually all companies need money to invest in the business, to grow profits. The cash for investment can come from prior year profits (retained earnings), issuing new shares, or borrowing. In the case of the first and second options, the ROE will reflect this use of cash, for growth. In the latter case, the debt used for growth will improve returns, but won’t affect the total equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.
China Aviation Oil (Singapore)’s Debt And Its 12% ROE
Shareholders will be pleased to learn that China Aviation Oil (Singapore) has not one iota of net debt! Its respectable ROE suggests it is a business worth watching, but it’s even better the company achieved this without leverage. At the end of the day, when a company has zero debt, it is in a better position to take future growth opportunities.
Return on equity is a useful indicator of the ability of a business to generate profits and return them to shareholders. Companies that can achieve high returns on equity without too much debt are generally of good quality. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.
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 you might want to check this FREE visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.
If you would prefer check out another company — one with potentially superior financials — then do not miss this free list of interesting companies, that have HIGH return on equity and low debt.
To help readers see past 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.