Earnings growth of 0.002% over 3 years hasn't been enough to translate into positive returns for Northwest Natural Holding (NYSE:NWN) shareholders

By
Simply Wall St
Published
April 15, 2022
NYSE:NWN
Source: Shutterstock

Many investors define successful investing as beating the market average over the long term. But if you try your hand at stock picking, your risk returning less than the market. We regret to report that long term Northwest Natural Holding Company (NYSE:NWN) shareholders have had that experience, with the share price dropping 23% in three years, versus a market return of about 57%.

After losing 3.3% this past week, it's worth investigating the company's fundamentals to see what we can infer from past performance.

Check out our latest analysis for Northwest Natural Holding

To paraphrase Benjamin Graham: Over the short term the market is a voting machine, but over the long term it's a weighing machine. One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.

Although the share price is down over three years, Northwest Natural Holding actually managed to grow EPS by 0.006% per year in that time. Given the share price reaction, one might suspect that EPS is not a good guide to the business performance during the period (perhaps due to a one-off loss or gain). Alternatively, growth expectations may have been unreasonable in the past.

It looks to us like the market was probably too optimistic around growth three years ago. However, taking a look at other business metrics might shed a bit more light on the share price action.

Revenue is actually up 6.0% over the three years, so the share price drop doesn't seem to hinge on revenue, either. It's probably worth investigating Northwest Natural Holding further; while we may be missing something on this analysis, there might also be an opportunity.

The image below shows how earnings and revenue have tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).

earnings-and-revenue-growth
NYSE:NWN Earnings and Revenue Growth April 15th 2022

We like that insiders have been buying shares in the last twelve months. Having said that, most people consider earnings and revenue growth trends to be a more meaningful guide to the business. This free report showing analyst forecasts should help you form a view on Northwest Natural Holding

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. As it happens, Northwest Natural Holding's TSR for the last 3 years was -15%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

While the broader market lost about 0.9% in the twelve months, Northwest Natural Holding shareholders did even worse, losing 6.3% (even including dividends). However, it could simply be that the share price has been impacted by broader market jitters. It might be worth keeping an eye on the fundamentals, in case there's a good opportunity. Unfortunately, last year's performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 0.3% over the last half decade. We realise that Baron Rothschild has said investors should "buy when there is blood on the streets", but we caution that investors should first be sure they are buying a high quality business. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. Case in point: We've spotted 3 warning signs for Northwest Natural Holding you should be aware of, and 1 of them is a bit concerning.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.

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