This article is intended for those of you who are at the beginning of your investing journey and want to start learning about core concepts of fundamental analysis on practical examples from today’s market.
Arrow Financial Corporation (NASDAQ:AROW) delivered an ROE of 13.01% over the past 12 months, which is an impressive feat relative to its industry average of 8.82% during the same period. Though, the impressiveness of AROW’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, AROW 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.
Breaking down ROE — the mother of all ratios
Return on Equity (ROE) weighs Arrow Financial’s profit against the level of its shareholders’ equity. For example, if the company invests $1 in the form of equity, it will generate $0.13 in earnings from this. Investors seeking to maximise their return in the Regional Banks industry may want to choose 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 Arrow Financial 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 Arrow Financial’s equity capital deployed. Its cost of equity is 9.80%. This means Arrow Financial returns enough to cover its own cost of equity, with a buffer of 3.20%. This sustainable practice implies that the company pays less for its capital than what it generates 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:
ROE = profit margin × asset turnover × financial leverage
ROE = (annual net profit ÷ sales) × (sales ÷ assets) × (assets ÷ shareholders’ equity)
ROE = annual net profit ÷ shareholders’ equity
The first component is profit margin, which measures how much of sales is retained after the company pays for all its expenses. Asset turnover shows how much revenue Arrow Financial can generate with its current 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 determine if Arrow Financial’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 Arrow Financial’s debt-to-equity ratio. The most recent ratio is 100.68%, which is relatively proportionate and indicates Arrow Financial has not taken on extreme leverage. Thus, we can conclude its above-average ROE is generated from its capacity to increase profit without a massive debt burden.
ROE is one of many ratios which meaningfully dissects financial statements, which illustrates the quality of a company. Arrow Financial’s ROE is impressive relative to the industry average and also covers 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 Arrow Financial, I’ve compiled three fundamental factors you should further examine:
- 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.
- Valuation: What is Arrow Financial 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 Arrow Financial is currently mispriced by the market.
- Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of Arrow Financial? 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 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 email@example.com.