The total return for Advanced Drainage Systems (NYSE:WMS) investors has risen faster than earnings growth over the last five years

By
Simply Wall St
Published
April 11, 2022
NYSE:WMS
Source: Shutterstock

While Advanced Drainage Systems, Inc. (NYSE:WMS) shareholders are probably generally happy, the stock hasn't had particularly good run recently, with the share price falling 13% in the last quarter. But that doesn't undermine the fantastic longer term performance (measured over five years). Indeed, the share price is up a whopping 400% in that time. So it might be that some shareholders are taking profits after good performance. Of course what matters most is whether the business can improve itself sustainably, thus justifying a higher price.

While this past week has detracted from the company's five-year return, let's look at the recent trends of the underlying business and see if the gains have been in alignment.

See our latest analysis for Advanced Drainage Systems

To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.

During five years of share price growth, Advanced Drainage Systems achieved compound earnings per share (EPS) growth of 36% per year. So the EPS growth rate is rather close to the annualized share price gain of 38% per year. That suggests that the market sentiment around the company hasn't changed much over that time. Rather, the share price has approximately tracked EPS growth.

You can see how EPS has changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).

earnings-per-share-growth
NYSE:WMS Earnings Per Share Growth April 11th 2022

We know that Advanced Drainage Systems has improved its bottom line over the last three years, but what does the future have in store? This free interactive report on Advanced Drainage Systems' balance sheet strength is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). The TSR is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. We note that for Advanced Drainage Systems the TSR over the last 5 years was 441%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

While the broader market gained around 2.0% in the last year, Advanced Drainage Systems shareholders lost 2.7% (even including dividends). However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. Longer term investors wouldn't be so upset, since they would have made 40%, each year, over five years. It could be that the recent sell-off is an opportunity, so it may be worth checking the fundamental data for signs of a long term growth trend. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 2 warning signs with Advanced Drainage Systems , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.

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