It is hard to get excited after looking at Acuity Brands' (NYSE:AYI) recent performance, when its stock has declined 3.8% over the past week. But if you pay close attention, you might find that its key financial indicators look quite decent, which could mean that the stock could potentially rise in the long-term given how markets usually reward more resilient long-term fundamentals. In this article, we decided to focus on Acuity Brands' ROE.
Return on equity or ROE is a key measure used to assess how efficiently a company's management is utilizing the company's capital. In other words, it is a profitability ratio which measures the rate of return on the capital provided by the company's shareholders.
How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?
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 Acuity Brands is:
16% = US$334m ÷ US$2.1b (Based on the trailing twelve months to November 2021).
The 'return' is the yearly profit. Another way to think of that is that for every $1 worth of equity, the company was able to earn $0.16 in profit.
What Has ROE Got To Do With Earnings Growth?
So far, we've learned that ROE is a measure of a company's profitability. Based on how much of its profits the company chooses to reinvest or "retain", we are then able to evaluate a company's future ability to generate profits. Assuming everything else remains unchanged, the higher the ROE and profit retention, the higher the growth rate of a company compared to companies that don't necessarily bear these characteristics.
Acuity Brands' Earnings Growth And 16% ROE
At first glance, Acuity Brands seems to have a decent ROE. And on comparing with the industry, we found that the the average industry ROE is similar at 14%. However, while Acuity Brands has a pretty respectable ROE, its five year net income decline rate was 2.9% . We reckon that there could be some other factors at play here that are preventing the company's growth. These include low earnings retention or poor allocation of capital.
That being said, we compared Acuity Brands' performance with the industry and were concerned when we found that while the company has shrunk its earnings, the industry has grown its earnings at a rate of 7.3% in the same period.
Earnings growth is an important metric to consider when valuing a stock. It’s important for an investor to know whether the market has priced in the company's expected earnings growth (or decline). Doing so will help them establish if the stock's future looks promising or ominous. What is AYI worth today? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether AYI is currently mispriced by the market.
Is Acuity Brands Efficiently Re-investing Its Profits?
Acuity Brands' low three-year median payout ratio of 6.7% (implying that it retains the remaining 93% of its profits) comes as a surprise when you pair it with the shrinking earnings. The low payout should mean that the company is retaining most of its earnings and consequently, should see some growth. So there might be other factors at play here which could potentially be hampering growth. For instance, the business has faced some headwinds.
Moreover, Acuity Brands has been paying dividends for at least ten years or more suggesting that management must have perceived that the shareholders prefer dividends over earnings growth. Upon studying the latest analysts' consensus data, we found that the company's future payout ratio is expected to drop to 4.2% over the next three years. However, the company's ROE is not expected to change by much despite the lower expected payout ratio.
In total, it does look like Acuity Brands has some positive aspects to its business. Although, we are disappointed to see a lack of growth in earnings even in spite of a high ROE and and a high reinvestment rate. We believe that there might be some outside factors that could be having a negative impact on the business. Having said that, looking at current analyst estimates, we found that the company's earnings growth rate is expected to see a huge improvement. Are these analysts expectations based on the broad expectations for the industry, or on the company's fundamentals? Click here to be taken to our analyst's forecasts page for the company.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.