Cerner Corporation's (NASDAQ:CERN) Fundamentals Look Pretty Strong: Could The Market Be Wrong About The Stock?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
November 15, 2021
NasdaqGS:CERN
Source: Shutterstock

With its stock down 8.5% over the past three months, it is easy to disregard Cerner (NASDAQ:CERN). However, the company's fundamentals look pretty decent, and long-term financials are usually aligned with future market price movements. Specifically, we decided to study Cerner's ROE in this article.

Return on equity or ROE is an important factor to be considered by a shareholder because it tells them how effectively their capital is being reinvested. Simply put, it is used to assess the profitability of a company in relation to its equity capital.

Check out our latest analysis for Cerner

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 Cerner is:

14% = US$522m ÷ US$3.8b (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 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 $0.14 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. Generally speaking, other things being equal, firms with a high return on equity and profit retention, have a higher growth rate than firms that don’t share these attributes.

Cerner's Earnings Growth And 14% ROE

At first glance, Cerner seems to have a decent ROE. On comparing with the average industry ROE of 7.5% the company's ROE looks pretty remarkable. As you might expect, the 2.2% net income decline reported by Cerner is a bit of a surprise. Based on this, we feel that there might be other reasons which haven't been discussed so far in this article that could be hampering the company's growth. These include low earnings retention or poor allocation of capital.

So, as a next step, we compared Cerner's performance against the industry and were disappointed to discover that while the company has been shrinking its earnings, the industry has been growing its earnings at a rate of 14% in the same period.

past-earnings-growth
NasdaqGS:CERN Past Earnings Growth November 16th 2021

Earnings growth is an important metric to consider when valuing a stock. What investors need to determine next is if the expected earnings growth, or the lack of it, is already built into the share price. By doing so, they will have an idea if the stock is headed into clear blue waters or if swampy waters await. Has the market priced in the future outlook for CERN? You can find out in our latest intrinsic value infographic research report.

Is Cerner Making Efficient Use Of Its Profits?

In spite of a normal three-year median payout ratio of 31% (that is, a retention ratio of 69%), the fact that Cerner's earnings have shrunk is quite puzzling. So there might be other factors at play here which could potentially be hampering growth. For example, the business has faced some headwinds.

Only recently, Cerner stated paying a dividend. This likely means that the management might have concluded that its shareholders have a strong preference for dividends. Upon studying the latest analysts' consensus data, we found that the company's future payout ratio is expected to drop to 23% over the next three years. The fact that the company's ROE is expected to rise to 38% over the same period is explained by the drop in the payout ratio.

Summary

On the whole, we do feel that Cerner has some positive attributes. Yet, the low earnings growth is a bit concerning, especially given that the company has a high rate of return and is reinvesting ma huge portion of its profits. By the looks of it, there could be some other factors, not necessarily in control of the business, that's preventing growth. That being so, the latest industry analyst forecasts show that the analysts are expecting to see a huge improvement in the company's earnings growth rate. 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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