W. R. Berkley Corporation (NYSE:WRB) Has Fared Decently But Fundamentals Look Uncertain: What Lies Ahead For The Stock?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
November 04, 2020
NYSE:WRB

Most readers would already know that W. R. Berkley's (NYSE:WRB) stock increased by 4.6% over the past week. However, the company's financials look a bit inconsistent and market outcomes are ultimately driven by long-term fundamentals, meaning that the stock could head in either direction. Particularly, we will be paying attention to W. R. Berkley'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.

Check out our latest analysis for W. R. Berkley

How To Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for return on equity is:

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

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for W. R. Berkley is:

5.8% = US$340m ÷ US$5.8b (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2020).

The 'return' is the amount earned after tax over the last twelve months. One way to conceptualize this is that for each $1 of shareholders' capital it has, the company made $0.06 in profit.

What Has ROE Got To Do With Earnings Growth?

Thus far, we have learned that ROE measures how efficiently a company is generating its profits. Depending on how much of these profits the company reinvests or "retains", and how effectively it does so, we are then able to assess a company’s earnings growth potential. Assuming everything else remains unchanged, the higher the ROE and profit retention, the higher the growth rate of a company compared to companies that don't necessarily bear these characteristics.

W. R. Berkley's Earnings Growth And 5.8% ROE

On the face of it, W. R. Berkley's ROE is not much to talk about. Next, when compared to the average industry ROE of 8.3%, the company's ROE leaves us feeling even less enthusiastic. Therefore, W. R. Berkley's flat earnings over the past five years can possibly be explained by the low ROE amongst other factors.

Next, on comparing with the industry net income growth, we found that W. R. Berkley's reported growth was lower than the industry growth of 8.0% in the same period, which is not something we like to see.

past-earnings-growth
NYSE:WRB Past Earnings Growth November 4th 2020

Earnings growth is a huge factor in stock valuation. 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. Is W. R. Berkley fairly valued compared to other companies? These 3 valuation measures might help you decide.

Is W. R. Berkley Efficiently Re-investing Its Profits?

W. R. Berkley has a low three-year median payout ratio of 12% (or a retention ratio of 88%) but the negligible earnings growth number doesn't reflect this as high growth usually follows high profit retention.

Additionally, W. R. Berkley has paid dividends over a period of at least ten years, which means that the company's management is determined to pay dividends even if it means little to no earnings growth. Looking at the current analyst consensus data, we can see that the company's future payout ratio is expected to rise to 45% over the next three years. Still, forecasts suggest that W. R. Berkley's future ROE will rise to 14% even though the the company's payout ratio is expected to rise. We presume that there could some other characteristics of the business that could be driving the anticipated growth in the company's ROE.

Conclusion

Overall, we have mixed feelings about W. R. Berkley. While the company does have a high rate of profit retention, its low rate of return is probably hampering its earnings growth. With that said, the latest industry analyst forecasts reveal that the company's earnings are expected to accelerate. To know more about the latest analysts predictions for the company, check out this visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.

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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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