Stock Analysis

# A Closer Look At H.B. Fuller Company's (NYSE:FUL) Uninspiring ROE

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While some investors are already well versed in financial metrics (hat tip), this article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE) and why it is important. We'll use ROE to examine H.B. Fuller Company (NYSE:FUL), by way of a worked example.

ROE or return on equity is a useful tool to assess how effectively a company can generate returns on the investment it received from its shareholders. Put another way, it reveals the company's success at turning shareholder investments into profits.

View our latest analysis for H.B. Fuller

## How Do You 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 H.B. Fuller is:

11% = US\$180m ÷ US\$1.6b (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2022).

The 'return' refers to a company's earnings over the last year. One way to conceptualize this is that for each \$1 of shareholders' capital it has, the company made \$0.11 in profit.

## Does H.B. Fuller Have A Good ROE?

Arguably the easiest way to assess company's ROE is to compare it with the average in its industry. Importantly, this is far from a perfect measure, because companies differ significantly within the same industry classification. As shown in the graphic below, H.B. Fuller has a lower ROE than the average (16%) in the Chemicals industry classification.

Unfortunately, that's sub-optimal. However, a low ROE is not always bad. If the company's debt levels are moderate to low, then there's still a chance that returns can be improved via the use of financial leverage. A company with high debt levels and low ROE is a combination we like to avoid given the risk involved. Our risks dashboard should have the 2 risks we have identified for H.B. Fuller.

## Why You Should Consider Debt When Looking At ROE

Virtually all companies need money to invest in the business, to grow profits. That cash can come from retained earnings, issuing new shares (equity), or debt. In the first and second cases, the ROE will reflect this use of cash for investment in the business. In the latter case, the use of debt will improve the returns, but will not change the equity. That will make the ROE look better than if no debt was used.

## Combining H.B. Fuller's Debt And Its 11% Return On Equity

H.B. Fuller does use a high amount of debt to increase returns. It has a debt to equity ratio of 1.12. With a fairly low ROE, and significant use of debt, it's hard to get excited about this business at the moment. Investors should think carefully about how a company might perform if it was unable to borrow so easily, because credit markets do change over time.

## Summary

Return on equity is one way we can compare its business quality of different companies. Companies that can achieve high returns on equity without too much debt are generally of good quality. If two companies have around the same level of debt to equity, and one has a higher ROE, I'd generally prefer the one with higher ROE.

But when a business is high quality, the market often bids it up to a price that reflects this. Profit growth rates, versus the expectations reflected in the price of the stock, are a particularly important to consider. So I think it may be worth checking this free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

But note: H.B. Fuller may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with high ROE and low debt.

What are the risks and opportunities for H.B. Fuller?

H.B. Fuller Company, together with its subsidiaries, formulates, manufactures, and markets adhesives, sealants, coatings, polymers, tapes, encapsulants, additives, and other specialty chemical products worldwide.

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Rewards

• Trading at 1.1% below our estimate of its fair value

• Earnings are forecast to grow 16.63% per year

• Earnings grew by 11.3% over the past year

Risks

• Debt is not well covered by operating cash flow

• Significant insider selling over the past 3 months

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Share Price

Market Cap

1Y Return

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