Can Hong Fok Corporation Limited’s (SGX:H30) ROE Continue To Surpass The Industry Average?

Hong Fok Corporation Limited (SGX:H30) performed in-line with its real estate development industry on the basis of its ROE – producing a return of9.93% relative to the peer average of 6.98% over the past 12 months. However, whether this ROE is actually impressive depends on if it can be maintained. This can be measured by looking at the company’s financial leverage. With more debt, H30 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. See our latest analysis for Hong Fok

Breaking down Return on Equity

Return on Equity (ROE) weighs Hong Fok’s profit against the level of its shareholders’ equity. For example, if the company invests SGD1 in the form of equity, it will generate SGD0.1 in earnings from this. Investors seeking to maximise their return in the Real Estate Development industry may want to choose the highest returning stock. However, this can be deceiving as each company has varying costs of equity and debt levels, which could exaggeratedly push up ROE at the same time as accumulating high interest expense.

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders Equity

ROE is assessed against cost of equity, which is measured using the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) – but let’s not dive into the details of that today. For now, let’s just look at the cost of equity number for Hong Fok, which is 10.98%. Given a discrepancy of -1.05% between return and cost, this indicated that Hong Fok may be paying more for its capital than what it’s generating in return. ROE can be broken down into three different 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

SGX:H30 Last Perf Mar 7th 18
SGX:H30 Last Perf Mar 7th 18

Essentially, profit margin shows how much money the company makes after paying for all its expenses. Asset turnover reveals how much revenue can be generated from Hong Fok’s asset base. Finally, financial leverage will be our main focus today. It shows how much of assets are funded by equity and can show how sustainable the company’s capital structure is. We can assess whether Hong Fok is fuelling ROE by excessively raising debt. Ideally, Hong Fok should have a balanced capital structure, which we can check by looking at the historic debt-to-equity ratio of the company. The most recent ratio is 35.50%, which is sensible and indicates Hong Fok 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.

SGX:H30 Historical Debt Mar 7th 18
SGX:H30 Historical Debt Mar 7th 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. Hong Fok’s above-industry ROE is noteworthy, but it was not high enough to cover its own 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. ROE is a helpful signal, but it is definitely not sufficient on its own to make an investment decision.

For Hong Fok, there are three pertinent factors you should further examine below. Just a heads up – to access some parts of the Simply Wall St research tool you might be asked to create a free account, but it takes just one click and the information they provide is definitely worth it in my opinion.