Based On Its ROE, Is WillScot Mobile Mini Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ:WSC) A High Quality Stock?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
April 19, 2022
NasdaqCM:WSC
Source: Shutterstock

While some investors are already well versed in financial metrics (hat tip), this article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE) and why it is important. We'll use ROE to examine WillScot Mobile Mini Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ:WSC), by way of a worked example.

Return on equity or ROE is a key measure used to assess how efficiently a company's management is utilizing the company's capital. Simply put, it is used to assess the profitability of a company in relation to its equity capital.

Check out our latest analysis for WillScot Mobile Mini Holdings

How Is ROE Calculated?

Return on equity can be calculated by using the formula:

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

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for WillScot Mobile Mini Holdings is:

8.0% = US$160m ÷ US$2.0b (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2021).

The 'return' is the income the business earned over the last year. Another way to think of that is that for every $1 worth of equity, the company was able to earn $0.08 in profit.

Does WillScot Mobile Mini Holdings Have A Good ROE?

Arguably the easiest way to assess company's ROE is to compare it with the average in its industry. The limitation of this approach is that some companies are quite different from others, even within the same industry classification. As shown in the graphic below, WillScot Mobile Mini Holdings has a lower ROE than the average (11%) in the Construction industry classification.

roe
NasdaqCM:WSC Return on Equity April 19th 2022

That's not what we like to see. Although, we think that a lower ROE could still mean that a company has the opportunity to better its returns with the use of leverage, provided its existing debt levels are low. When a company has low ROE but high debt levels, we would be cautious as the risk involved is too high.

How Does Debt Impact 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 first two cases, the ROE will capture this use of capital to grow. In the latter case, the debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders' equity. In this manner the use of debt will boost ROE, even though the core economics of the business stay the same.

Combining WillScot Mobile Mini Holdings' Debt And Its 8.0% Return On Equity

WillScot Mobile Mini Holdings clearly uses a high amount of debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 1.32. With a fairly low ROE, and significant use of debt, it's hard to get excited about this business at the moment. Debt does bring extra risk, so it's only really worthwhile when a company generates some decent returns from it.

Summary

Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. In our books, the highest quality companies have high return on equity, despite low debt. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.

Having said that, while ROE is a useful indicator of business quality, you'll have to look at a whole range of factors to determine the right price to buy a stock. The rate at which profits are likely to grow, relative to the expectations of profit growth reflected in the current price, must be considered, too. So you might want to check this FREE visualization of 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.

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