Should You Be Excited About Target Corporation’s (NYSE:TGT) 26% Return On Equity?

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). By way of learning-by-doing, we’ll look at ROE to gain a better understanding of Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT).

Our data shows Target has a return on equity of 26% 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 $0.26.

View our latest analysis for Target

How Do I Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for ROE is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders’ Equity

Or for Target:

26% = US$2.9b ÷ US$11b (Based on the trailing twelve months to February 2019.)

It’s easy to understand the ‘net profit’ part of that equation, but ‘shareholders’ equity’ requires further explanation. It is all earnings retained by the company, plus any capital paid in by shareholders. The easiest way to calculate shareholders’ equity is to subtract the company’s total liabilities from the total assets.

What Does ROE Signify?

ROE measures a company’s profitability against the profit it retains, and any outside investments. The ‘return’ is the amount earned after tax over the last twelve months. The higher the ROE, the more profit the company is making. So, all else equal, investors should like a high ROE. That means ROE can be used to compare two businesses.

Does Target 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. Pleasingly, Target has a superior ROE than the average (20%) company in the Multiline Retail industry.

NYSE:TGT Past Revenue and Net Income, April 1st 2019
NYSE:TGT Past Revenue and Net Income, April 1st 2019

That’s what I like to see. In my book, a high ROE almost always warrants a closer look. One data point to check is if insiders have bought shares recently.

Why You Should Consider Debt When Looking At ROE

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 debt used for growth will improve returns, but won’t affect the total equity. In this manner the use of debt will boost ROE, even though the core economics of the business stay the same.

Combining Target’s Debt And Its 26% Return On Equity

It’s worth noting the significant use of debt by Target, leading to its debt to equity ratio of 1.19. While the ROE is impressive, that metric has clearly benefited from the company’s use of debt. Debt does bring extra risk, so it’s only really worthwhile when a company generates some decent returns from it.

In Summary

Return on equity is a useful indicator of the ability of a business to generate profits and return them to shareholders. A company that can achieve a high return on equity without debt could be considered a high quality business. All else being equal, a higher ROE is better.

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 you might want to check this FREE visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.