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). We'll use ROE to examine Xcel Energy Inc. (NASDAQ:XEL), by way of a worked example.
Return on equity or ROE is a key measure used to assess how efficiently a company's management is utilizing the company's capital. Simply put, it is used to assess the profitability of a company in relation to its equity capital.
How Is ROE Calculated?
The formula for return on equity is:
Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity
So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Xcel Energy is:
10% = US$1.6b ÷ US$15b (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2021).
The 'return' is the yearly profit. Another way to think of that is that for every $1 worth of equity, the company was able to earn $0.10 in profit.
Does Xcel Energy Have A Good Return On Equity?
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 Xcel Energy has an ROE that is fairly close to the average for the Electric Utilities industry (9.5%).
That's neither particularly good, nor bad. Even if the ROE is respectable when compared to the industry, its worth checking if the firm's ROE is being aided by high debt levels. If so, this increases its exposure to financial risk. You can see the 2 risks we have identified for Xcel Energy by visiting our risks dashboard for free on our platform here.
The Importance Of Debt To Return On Equity
Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. That cash can come from retained earnings, issuing new shares (equity), or debt. In the first and second cases, the ROE will reflect this use of cash for investment in the business. In the latter case, the debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders' equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.
Combining Xcel Energy's Debt And Its 10% Return On Equity
Xcel Energy clearly uses a high amount of debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 1.54. The combination of a rather low ROE and significant use of debt is not particularly appealing. Debt does bring extra risk, so it's only really worthwhile when a company generates some decent returns from it.
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. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.
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 I think it may be worth checking this free report on 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.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.