Stock Analysis

The total return for Aflac (NYSE:AFL) investors has risen faster than earnings growth over the last five years

NYSE:AFL
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When you buy and hold a stock for the long term, you definitely want it to provide a positive return. But more than that, you probably want to see it rise more than the market average. Unfortunately for shareholders, while the Aflac Incorporated (NYSE:AFL) share price is up 39% in the last five years, that's less than the market return. But if you include dividends then the return is market-beating. Looking at the last year alone, the stock is up 8.5%.

Although Aflac has shed US$1.6b from its market cap this week, let's take a look at its longer term fundamental trends and see if they've driven returns.

View our latest analysis for Aflac

While the efficient markets hypothesis continues to be taught by some, it has been proven that markets are over-reactive dynamic systems, and investors are not always rational. One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company's share price and its earnings per share (EPS).

During five years of share price growth, Aflac achieved compound earnings per share (EPS) growth of 16% per year. This EPS growth is higher than the 7% average annual increase in the share price. So one could conclude that the broader market has become more cautious towards the stock. This cautious sentiment is reflected in its (fairly low) P/E ratio of 8.32.

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:AFL Earnings Per Share Growth September 29th 2022

Dive deeper into Aflac's key metrics by checking this interactive graph of Aflac's earnings, revenue and cash flow.

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. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. In the case of Aflac, it has a TSR of 57% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

We're pleased to report that Aflac shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 11% over one year. And that does include the dividend. That's better than the annualised return of 9% over half a decade, implying that the company is doing better recently. Someone with an optimistic perspective could view the recent improvement in TSR as indicating that the business itself is getting better with time. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. Like risks, for instance. Every company has them, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Aflac (of which 1 doesn't sit too well with us!) you should know about.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether Aflac is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.