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. To keep the lesson grounded in practicality, we'll use ROE to better understand CarMax, Inc. (NYSE:KMX).
Return on equity or ROE is a key measure used to assess how efficiently a company's management is utilizing the company's capital. In short, ROE shows the profit each dollar generates with respect to its shareholder investments.
How To Calculate Return On Equity?
ROE can be calculated by using the formula:
Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity
So, based on the above formula, the ROE for CarMax is:
17% = US$690m ÷ US$4.0b (Based on the trailing twelve months to August 2020).
The 'return' is the income the business earned over the last year. Another way to think of that is that for every $1 worth of equity, the company was able to earn $0.17 in profit.
Does CarMax Have A Good ROE?
By comparing a company's ROE with its industry average, we can get a quick measure of how good it is. Importantly, this is far from a perfect measure, because companies differ significantly within the same industry classification. You can see in the graphic below that CarMax has an ROE that is fairly close to the average for the Specialty Retail industry (16%).
That's neither particularly good, nor bad. Although the ROE is similar to the industry, we should still perform further checks to see if the company's ROE is being boosted by high debt levels. If a company takes on too much debt, it is at higher risk of defaulting on interest payments.
How Does Debt Impact Return On Equity?
Most companies need money -- from somewhere -- to grow their profits. That cash can come from retained earnings, issuing new shares (equity), or debt. In the case of the first and second options, the ROE will reflect this use of cash, for growth. In the latter case, the debt used for growth will improve returns, but won't affect the total equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.
Combining CarMax's Debt And Its 17% Return On Equity
It appears that CarMax makes extensive use of debt to improve its returns, because it has an alarmingly high debt to equity ratio of 3.83. Its ROE is respectable, but it's not so impressive once you consider all of the debt.
Return on equity is a useful indicator of the ability of a business to generate profits and return them to shareholders. In our books, the highest quality companies have high return on equity, despite low debt. All else being equal, a higher ROE is better.
Having said that, while ROE is a useful indicator of business quality, you'll have to look at a whole range of factors to determine the right price to buy a stock. It is important to consider other factors, such as future profit growth -- and how much investment is required going forward. So you might want to take a peek at this data-rich interactive graph of 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.
When trading CarMax or any other investment, use the platform considered by many to be the Professional's Gateway to the Worlds Market, Interactive Brokers. You get the lowest-cost* trading on stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds and funds worldwide from a single integrated account.
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.
*Interactive Brokers Rated Lowest Cost Broker by StockBrokers.com Annual Online Review 2020
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org.