Can Accenture plc (NYSE:ACN) Continue To Outperform Its Industry?

The content of this article will benefit those of you who are starting to educate yourself about investing in the stock market and want to begin learning the link between Accenture plc (NYSE:ACN)’s return fundamentals and stock market performance.

Accenture plc (NYSE:ACN) outperformed the it consulting and other services industry on the basis of its ROE – producing a higher 40.87% relative to the peer average of 14.77% over the past 12 months. But what is more interesting is whether ACN can sustain this above-average ratio. Sustainability can be gauged by a company’s financial leverage – the more debt it has, the higher ROE is pumped up in the short term, at the expense of long term interest payment burden. Let me show you what I mean by this. Check out our latest analysis for Accenture

Breaking down ROE — the mother of all ratios

Firstly, Return on Equity, or ROE, is simply the percentage of last years’ earning against the book value of shareholders’ equity. It essentially shows how much the company can generate in earnings given the amount of equity it has raised. Investors seeking to maximise their return in the IT Consulting and Other Services industry may want to choose the highest returning stock. But this can be misleading as each company has different costs of equity and also varying debt levels, which could artificially push up ROE whilst 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 Accenture’s equity capital deployed. Its cost of equity is 9.33%. This means Accenture returns enough to cover its own cost of equity, with a buffer of 31.54%. This sustainable practice implies that the company 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

NYSE:ACN Last Perf July 9th 18
NYSE:ACN Last Perf July 9th 18

Essentially, profit margin shows how much money the company makes after paying for all its expenses. The other component, asset turnover, illustrates how much revenue Accenture can make from its asset base. The most interesting ratio, and reflective of sustainability of its ROE, is financial leverage. We can assess whether Accenture is fuelling ROE by excessively raising debt. Ideally, Accenture should have a balanced capital structure, which we can check by looking at the historic debt-to-equity ratio of the company. Currently Accenture 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.

NYSE:ACN Historical Debt July 9th 18
NYSE:ACN Historical Debt July 9th 18

Next Steps:

ROE is one of many ratios which meaningfully dissects financial statements, which illustrates the quality of a company. Accenture’s ROE is impressive relative to the industry average and also covers 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 Accenture, I’ve put together three fundamental factors you should look at:

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