This week we saw the Greif, Inc. (NYSE:GEF) share price climb by 10%. But that cannot eclipse the less-than-impressive returns over the last three years. After all, the share price is down 42% in the last three years, significantly under-performing the market.
There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect underlying business performance. One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.
During the unfortunate three years of share price decline, Greif actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) improve by 23% per year. Given the share price reaction, one might suspect that EPS is not a good guide to the business performance during the period (perhaps due to a one-off loss or gain). Or else the company was over-hyped in the past, and so its growth has disappointed.
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 note that the dividend seems healthy enough, so that probably doesn’t explain the share price drop. It’s good to see that Greif has increased its revenue over the last three years. If the company can keep growing revenue, there may be an opportunity for investors. You might have to dig deeper to understand the recent share price weakness.
The image below shows how earnings and revenue have tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).
It’s good to see that there was some significant insider buying in the last three months. That’s a positive. On the other hand, we think the revenue and earnings trends are much more meaningful measures of the business. You can see what analysts are predicting for Greif in this interactive graph of future profit estimates.
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. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. We note that for Greif the TSR over the last 3 years was -35%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. And there’s no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!
A Different Perspective
Greif shareholders gained a total return of 2.1% during the year. But that was short of the market average. The silver lining is that the gain was actually better than the average annual return of 2.1% per year over five year. It is possible that returns will improve along with the business fundamentals. 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. Case in point: We’ve spotted 3 warning signs for Greif you should be aware of, and 1 of them is significant.
Greif is not the only stock insiders are buying. So take a peek at this free list of growing companies with insider buying.
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. Thank you for reading.