Universal's (NYSE:UVV) stock is up by a considerable 20% over the past three months. However, in this article, we decided to focus on its weak fundamentals, as long-term financial performance of a business is what ultimatley dictates market outcomes. Particularly, we will be paying attention to Universal's ROE today.
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.
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 Universal is:
5.6% = US$74m ÷ US$1.3b (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2020).
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 $0.06 in profit.
What Has ROE Got To Do With Earnings Growth?
We have already established that ROE serves as an efficient profit-generating gauge for a company's future earnings. We now need to evaluate how much profit the company reinvests or "retains" for future growth which then gives us an idea about the growth potential of the company. Assuming all else is equal, companies that have both a higher return on equity and higher profit retention are usually the ones that have a higher growth rate when compared to companies that don't have the same features.
Universal's Earnings Growth And 5.6% ROE
On the face of it, Universal's ROE is not much to talk about. A quick further study shows that the company's ROE doesn't compare favorably to the industry average of 18% either. Hence, the flat earnings seen by Universal over the past five years could probably be the result of it having a lower ROE.
From the 0.9% decline reported by the industry in the same period, we infer that Universal and its industry are both shrinking at a similar rate.
The basis for attaching value to a company is, to a great extent, tied to its earnings growth. What investors need to determine next is if the expected earnings growth, or the lack of it, is already built into the share price. This then helps them determine if the stock is placed for a bright or bleak future. One good indicator of expected earnings growth is the P/E ratio which determines the price the market is willing to pay for a stock based on its earnings prospects. So, you may want to check if Universal is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to its industry.
Is Universal Efficiently Re-investing Its Profits?
The high three-year median payout ratio of 85% (meaning, the company retains only 15% of profits) for Universal suggests that the company's earnings growth was miniscule as a result of paying out a majority of its earnings.
In addition, Universal has been paying dividends over a period of at least ten years suggesting that keeping up dividend payments is way more important to the management even if it comes at the cost of business growth.
In total, we would have a hard think before deciding on any investment action concerning Universal. As a result of its low ROE and lack of mich reinvestment into the business, the company has seen a disappointing earnings growth rate. Until now, we have only just grazed the surface of the company's past performance by looking at the company's fundamentals. So it may be worth checking this free detailed graph of Universal's past earnings, as well as revenue and cash flows to get a deeper insight into the company's performance.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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.
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