With an ROE of 16.07%, Republic Services Inc (NYSE:RSG) outpaced its own industry which delivered a less exciting 12.04% over the past year. Though, the impressiveness of RSG’s ROE is contingent on whether this industry-beating level can be sustained. Sustainability can be gauged by a company’s financial leverage – the more debt it has, the higher ROE is pumped up in the short term, at the expense of long term interest payment burden. Let me show you what I mean by this. See our latest analysis for Republic Services
What you must know about ROE
Firstly, Return on Equity, or ROE, is simply the percentage of last years’ earning against the book value of shareholders’ equity. For example, if the company invests $1 in the form of equity, it will generate $0.16 in earnings from this. If investors diversify their portfolio by industry, they may want to maximise their return in the Environmental and Facilities Services sector by investing in the highest returning stock. But this can be misleading as each company has different costs of equity and also varying debt levels, which could artificially push up ROE whilst accumulating high interest expense.
Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders Equity
Returns are usually compared to costs to measure the efficiency of capital. Republic Services’s cost of equity is 8.91%. This means Republic Services returns enough to cover its own cost of equity, with a buffer of 7.15%. This sustainable practice implies that the company pays less for its capital than what it generates in return. ROE can be split up into three useful 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
Essentially, profit margin shows how much money the company makes after paying for all its expenses. The other component, asset turnover, illustrates how much revenue Republic Services can make from its asset base. And finally, financial leverage is simply how much of assets are funded by equity, which exhibits how sustainable the company’s capital structure is. We can determine if Republic Services’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 Republic Services’s debt-to-equity ratio. The most recent ratio is 102.84%, which is relatively proportionate and indicates Republic Services 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.
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. Republic Services exhibits a strong ROE against its peers, as well as sufficient returns to cover its cost of equity. ROE is not likely to be inflated by excessive debt funding, giving shareholders more conviction in the sustainability of high returns. Although ROE can be a useful metric, it is only a small part of diligent research.
For Republic Services, I've put together three relevant factors you should further research:
- 1. 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.
- 2. Valuation: What is Republic Services 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 Republic Services is currently mispriced by the market.
- 3. Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of Republic Services? Explore our interactive list of stocks with large growth potential to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!