Is The Chefs' Warehouse, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:CHEF) ROE Of 8.1% Concerning?

Published
September 23, 2022
NasdaqGS:CHEF
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Many investors are still learning about the various metrics that can be useful when analysing a stock. This article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE). To keep the lesson grounded in practicality, we'll use ROE to better understand The Chefs' Warehouse, Inc. (NASDAQ:CHEF).

Return on equity or ROE is a key measure used to assess how efficiently a company's management is utilizing the company's capital. Put another way, it reveals the company's success at turning shareholder investments into profits.

Check out our latest analysis for Chefs' Warehouse

How To Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for return on equity is:

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

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Chefs' Warehouse is:

8.1% = US$30m รท US$374m (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2022).

The 'return' is the profit over the last twelve months. One way to conceptualize this is that for each $1 of shareholders' capital it has, the company made $0.08 in profit.

Does Chefs' Warehouse Have A Good Return On Equity?

By comparing a company's ROE with its industry average, we can get a quick measure of how good it is. However, this method is only useful as a rough check, because companies do differ quite a bit within the same industry classification. As is clear from the image below, Chefs' Warehouse has a lower ROE than the average (14%) in the Consumer Retailing industry.

roe
NasdaqGS:CHEF Return on Equity September 23rd 2022

That certainly isn't ideal. That being said, a low ROE is not always a bad thing, especially if the company has low leverage as this still leaves room for improvement if the company were to take on more debt. When a company has low ROE but high debt levels, we would be cautious as the risk involved is too high.

The Importance Of Debt To Return On Equity

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 used for growth will improve returns, but won't affect the total equity. That will make the ROE look better than if no debt was used.

Chefs' Warehouse's Debt And Its 8.1% ROE

Chefs' Warehouse clearly uses a high amount of debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 1.04. With a fairly low ROE, and significant use of debt, it's hard to get excited about this business at the moment. Debt increases risk and reduces options for the company in the future, so you generally want to see some good returns from using 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 around the same level of debt to equity, and one has a higher ROE, I'd generally prefer the one with higher ROE.

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. Profit growth rates, versus the expectations reflected in the price of the stock, are a particularly important to consider. So you might want to check this FREE visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.

But note: Chefs' Warehouse may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with high ROE and low debt.

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