What is Behind Praxair Inc’s (NYSE:PX) Superior ROE?

This analysis is intended to introduce important early concepts to people who are starting to invest and want to learn about Return on Equity using a real-life example.

With an ROE of 22.2%, Praxair Inc (NYSE:PX) outpaced its own industry which delivered a less exciting 13.5% over the past year. But what is more interesting is whether PX can sustain this above-average ratio. This can be measured by looking at the company’s financial leverage. With more debt, PX can invest even more and earn more money, thus pushing up its returns. However, ROE only measures returns against equity, not debt. This can be distorted, so let’s take a look at it further.

Check out our latest analysis for Praxair

Peeling the layers of ROE – trisecting a company’s profitability

Firstly, Return on Equity, or ROE, is simply the percentage of last years’ earning against the book value of shareholders’ equity. It essentially shows how much the company can generate in earnings given the amount of equity it has raised. If investors diversify their portfolio by industry, they may want to maximise their return in the Industrial Gases sector by investing in the highest returning stock. However, this can be misleading as each firm has different costs of equity and debt levels i.e. the more debt Praxair has, the higher ROE is pumped up in the short term, at the expense of long term interest payment burden.

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders Equity

ROE is assessed against cost of equity, which is measured using the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) – but let’s not dive into the details of that today. For now, let’s just look at the cost of equity number for Praxair, which is 9.5%. Since Praxair’s return covers its cost in excess of 12.8%, its use of equity capital is efficient and likely to be sustainable. Simply put, Praxair pays less for its capital than what it generates in return. ROE can be dissected into three distinct ratios: net profit margin, asset turnover, and financial leverage. This is called the Dupont Formula:

Dupont Formula

ROE = profit margin × asset turnover × financial leverage

ROE = (annual net profit ÷ sales) × (sales ÷ assets) × (assets ÷ shareholders’ equity)

ROE = annual net profit ÷ shareholders’ equity

NYSE:PX Last Perf August 24th 18
NYSE:PX Last Perf August 24th 18

Essentially, profit margin shows how much money the company makes after paying for all its expenses. The other component, asset turnover, illustrates how much revenue Praxair can make from its asset base. Finally, financial leverage will be our main focus today. It shows how much of assets are funded by equity and can show how sustainable the company’s capital structure is. We can determine if Praxair’s ROE is inflated by borrowing high levels of debt. Generally, a balanced capital structure means its returns will be sustainable over the long run. We can examine this by looking at Praxair’s debt-to-equity ratio. The ratio currently stands at a balanced 129%, meaning Praxair has not taken on excessively disproportionate debt to drive its returns. The company is able to produce profit growth without a substantial debt burden.

NYSE:PX Historical Debt August 24th 18
NYSE:PX Historical Debt August 24th 18

Next Steps:

ROE is a simple yet informative ratio, illustrating the various components that each measure the quality of the overall stock. Praxair exhibits a strong ROE against its peers, as well as sufficient returns to cover its cost of equity. Its high ROE is not likely to be driven by high debt. Therefore, investors may have more confidence in the sustainability of this level of returns going forward. Although ROE can be a useful metric, it is only a small part of diligent research.

For Praxair, I’ve put together three essential aspects you should look at:

  1. Financial Health: Does it have a healthy balance sheet? Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis with six simple checks on key factors like leverage and risk.
  2. Future Earnings: How does Praxair’s growth rate compare to its peers and the wider market? Dig deeper into the analyst consensus number for the upcoming years by interacting with our free analyst growth expectation chart.
  3. Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of Praxair? Explore our interactive list of stocks with large growth potential to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.