Should We Be Cautious About Retail Opportunity Investments Corp’s (NASDAQ:ROIC) ROE Of 3.6%?

Many investors are still learning about the various metrics that can be useful when analysing a stock. This article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE). We’ll use ROE to examine Retail Opportunity Investments Corp (NASDAQ:ROIC), by way of a worked example.

Our data shows Retail Opportunity Investments has a return on equity of 3.6% for the last year. Another way to think of that is that for every $1 worth of equity in the company, it was able to earn $0.036.

See our latest analysis for Retail Opportunity Investments

How Do You Calculate ROE?

The formula for ROE is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders’ Equity

Or for Retail Opportunity Investments:

3.6% = 42.703 ÷ US$1.3b (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Most know that net profit is the total earnings after all expenses, but the concept of shareholders’ equity is a little more complicated. It is the capital paid in by shareholders, plus any retained earnings. You can calculate shareholders’ equity by subtracting the company’s total liabilities from its total assets.

What Does Return On Equity Signify?

ROE looks at the amount a company earns relative to the money it has kept within the business. The ‘return’ is the yearly profit. A higher profit will lead to a higher ROE. So, all else being equal, a high ROE is better than a low one. Clearly, then, one can use ROE to compare different companies.

Does Retail Opportunity Investments Have A Good Return On Equity?

One simple way to determine if a company has a good return on equity is to compare it to the average for 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, Retail Opportunity Investments has a lower ROE than the average (6.8%) in the reits industry classification.

NasdaqGS:ROIC Last Perf November 30th 18
NasdaqGS:ROIC Last Perf November 30th 18

That certainly isn’t ideal. We prefer it when the ROE of a company is above the industry average, but it’s not the be-all and end-all if it is lower. Nonetheless, it might be wise to check if insiders have been selling.

How Does Debt Impact Return On Equity?

Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. The cash for investment can come from prior year profits (retained earnings), issuing new shares, or borrowing. In the case of the first and second options, the ROE will reflect this use of cash, for growth. In the latter case, the use of debt will improve the returns, but will not change the equity. In this manner the use of debt will boost ROE, even though the core economics of the business stay the same.

Combining Retail Opportunity Investments’s Debt And Its 3.6% Return On Equity

Retail Opportunity Investments clearly uses a significant amount debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 1.10. 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.

The Bottom Line On ROE

Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. Companies that can achieve high returns on equity without too much debt are generally of good quality. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.

But ROE is just one piece of a bigger puzzle, since high quality businesses often trade on high multiples of earnings. 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.

If you would prefer check out another company — one with potentially superior financials — then do not miss this free list of interesting companies, that have HIGH return on equity and low debt.

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.