Is Facebook Inc’s (NASDAQ:FB) ROE Of 24.02% Sustainable?

This analysis is intended to introduce important early concepts to people who are starting to invest and want to begin learning the link between company’s fundamentals and stock market performance.

With an ROE of 24.02%, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) outpaced its own industry which delivered a less exciting 12.22% over the past year. But what is more interesting is whether FB can sustain this above-average ratio. A measure of sustainable returns is FB’s financial leverage. If FB 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.

See our latest analysis for Facebook

Breaking down Return on Equity

Firstly, Return on Equity, or ROE, is simply the percentage of last years’ earning against the book value of shareholders’ equity. For example, if the company invests $1 in the form of equity, it will generate $0.24 in earnings from this. Investors seeking to maximise their return in the Internet Software and Services industry may want to choose 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

ROE is measured against cost of equity in order to determine the efficiency of Facebook’s equity capital deployed. Its cost of equity is 11.28%. Since Facebook’s return covers its cost in excess of 12.74%, its use of equity capital is efficient and likely to be sustainable. Simply put, Facebook pays less for its capital than what it generates in return. ROE can be broken down into three different 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:FB Last Perf August 22nd 18
NasdaqGS:FB Last Perf August 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. The other component, asset turnover, illustrates how much revenue Facebook can make from its asset base. Finally, financial leverage will be our main focus today. It shows how much of assets are funded by equity and can show how sustainable the company’s capital structure is. We can determine if Facebook’s ROE is inflated by borrowing high levels of debt. Generally, a balanced capital structure means its returns will be sustainable over the long run. We can examine this by looking at Facebook’s debt-to-equity ratio. Currently Facebook has virtually no debt, which means its returns are predominantly driven by equity capital. Therefore, the level of financial leverage has no impact on ROE, and the ratio is a representative measure of the efficiency of all its capital employed firm-wide.

NasdaqGS:FB Historical Debt August 22nd 18
NasdaqGS:FB Historical Debt August 22nd 18

Next Steps:

ROE is a simple yet informative ratio, illustrating the various components that each measure the quality of the overall stock. Facebook’s above-industry ROE is encouraging, and is also in excess of 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 Facebook, I’ve compiled three pertinent aspects you should further research:

  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 Facebook 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 Facebook is currently mispriced by the market.
  3. Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of Facebook? Explore our interactive list of stocks with large growth potential to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!

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.