With An ROE Of 20.02%, Has Adobe Systems Incorporated’s (NASDAQ:ADBE) Management Done Well?

Adobe Systems Incorporated (NASDAQ:ADBE) delivered an ROE of 20.02% over the past 12 months, which is an impressive feat relative to its industry average of 12.42% during the same period. But what is more interesting is whether ADBE can sustain this above-average ratio. A measure of sustainable returns is ADBE’s financial leverage. If ADBE borrows debt to invest in its business, its profits will be higher. But ROE does not capture any debt, so we only see high profits and low equity, which is great on the surface. But today let’s take a deeper dive below this surface. View our latest analysis for Adobe Systems

Breaking down Return on Equity

Return on Equity (ROE) is a measure of Adobe Systems’s profit relative to its shareholders’ equity. An ROE of 20.02% implies $0.2 returned on every $1 invested, so the higher the return, the better. If investors diversify their portfolio by industry, they may want to maximise their return in the Application Software sector by investing in the highest returning stock. However, this can be deceiving as each company has varying costs of equity and debt levels, which could exaggeratedly push up ROE at the same time as accumulating high interest expense.

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders Equity

Returns are usually compared to costs to measure the efficiency of capital. Adobe Systems’s cost of equity is 9.46%. Given a positive discrepancy of 10.57% between return and cost, this indicates that Adobe Systems pays less for its capital than what it generates in return, which is a sign of capital efficiency. ROE can be split up into three useful 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:ADBE Last Perf Mar 15th 18
NasdaqGS:ADBE Last Perf Mar 15th 18

Basically, profit margin measures how much of revenue trickles down into earnings which illustrates how efficient the business is with its cost management. The other component, asset turnover, illustrates how much revenue Adobe Systems can make from its 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 Adobe Systems is fuelling ROE by excessively raising debt. Ideally, Adobe Systems should have a balanced capital structure, which we can check by looking at the historic debt-to-equity ratio of the company. The most recent ratio is 22.25%, which is sensible and indicates Adobe Systems has not taken on too much leverage. Thus, we can conclude its above-average ROE is generated from its capacity to increase profit without a large debt burden.

NasdaqGS:ADBE Historical Debt Mar 15th 18
NasdaqGS:ADBE Historical Debt Mar 15th 18

Next Steps:

While ROE is a relatively simple calculation, it can be broken down into different ratios, each telling a different story about the strengths and weaknesses of a company. Adobe Systems exhibits a strong ROE against its peers, as well as sufficient returns to cover 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. Although ROE can be a useful metric, it is only a small part of diligent research.

For Adobe Systems, I’ve compiled three important factors you should further research: