The main point of investing for the long term is to make money. Furthermore, you'd generally like to see the share price rise faster than the market But W. R. Berkley Corporation (NYSE:WRB) has fallen short of that second goal, with a share price rise of 69% over five years, which is below the market return. Unfortunately the share price is down 12% in the last year.
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 flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.
During five years of share price growth, W. R. Berkley actually saw its EPS drop 8.3% per year.
This means it's unlikely the market is judging the company based on earnings growth. Since the change in EPS doesn't seem to correlate with the change in share price, it's worth taking a look at other metrics.
We doubt the modest 2.0% dividend yield is attracting many buyers to the stock. We are not particularly impressed by the annual compound revenue growth of 1.7% over five years. So why is the share price up? It's not immediately obvious to us, but a closer look at the company's progress over time might yield answers.
The graphic below depicts how earnings and revenue have changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).
Balance sheet strength is crucial. It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on how its financial position has changed over time.
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. As it happens, W. R. Berkley's TSR for the last 5 years was 89%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
W. R. Berkley shareholders are down 9.9% for the year (even including dividends), but the market itself is up 24%. However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. Longer term investors wouldn't be so upset, since they would have made 14%, each year, over five years. If the fundamental data continues to indicate long term sustainable growth, the current sell-off could be an opportunity worth considering. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. For example, we've discovered 3 warning signs for W. R. Berkley that you should be aware of before investing here.
For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
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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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