How Did Biogen Inc’s (NASDAQ:BIIB) 22.04% ROE Fare Against The Industry?

Biogen Inc (NASDAQ:BIIB) delivered an ROE of 22.04% over the past 12 months, which is an impressive feat relative to its industry average of 18.07% during the same period. However, whether this above-industry ROE is actually impressive depends on if it can be maintained. This can be measured by looking at the company’s financial leverage. With more debt, BIIB 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. See our latest analysis for Biogen

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

Return on Equity (ROE) weighs Biogen’s profit against the level of its shareholders’ equity. It essentially shows how much the company can generate in earnings given the amount of equity it has raised. Investors that are diversifying their portfolio based on industry may want to maximise their return in the Biotechnology sector by choosing the highest returning stock. But this can be misleading as each company has different costs of equity and also varying debt levels, which could artificially push up ROE whilst accumulating high interest expense.

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders Equity

ROE is measured against cost of equity in order to determine the efficiency of Biogen’s equity capital deployed. Its cost of equity is 11.29%. Given a positive discrepancy of 10.75% between return and cost, this indicates that Biogen pays less for its capital than what it generates in return, which is a sign of capital efficiency. 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

NasdaqGS:BIIB Last Perf May 22nd 18
NasdaqGS:BIIB Last Perf May 22nd 18

Basically, profit margin measures how much of revenue trickles down into earnings which illustrates how efficient the business is with its cost management. Asset turnover reveals how much revenue can be generated from Biogen’s asset base. And finally, financial leverage is simply how much of assets are funded by equity, which exhibits how sustainable the company’s capital structure is. We can assess whether Biogen is fuelling ROE by excessively raising debt. Ideally, Biogen should have a balanced capital structure, which we can check by looking at the historic debt-to-equity ratio of the company. Currently the ratio stands at 42.26%, which is very low. This means Biogen has not taken on leverage, and its above-average ROE is driven by its ability to grow its profit without a huge debt burden.

NasdaqGS:BIIB Historical Debt May 22nd 18
NasdaqGS:BIIB Historical Debt May 22nd 18

Next Steps:

ROE is one of many ratios which meaningfully dissects financial statements, which illustrates the quality of a company. Biogen’s ROE is impressive relative to the industry average and also covers its cost of equity. ROE is not likely to be inflated by excessive debt funding, giving shareholders more conviction in the sustainability of high returns. ROE is a helpful signal, but it is definitely not sufficient on its own to make an investment decision.

For Biogen, I’ve compiled three key factors you should further examine:

  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. Valuation: What is Biogen worth today? Is the stock undervalued, even when its growth outlook is factored into its intrinsic value? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether Biogen is currently mispriced by the market.
  3. Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of Biogen? Explore our interactive list of stocks with large growth potential to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!