Stock Analysis

Can SJW Group (NYSE:SJW) Improve Its Returns?

NYSE:SJW
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While some investors are already well versed in financial metrics (hat tip), this article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE) and why it is important. To keep the lesson grounded in practicality, we'll use ROE to better understand SJW Group (NYSE:SJW).

Return on equity or ROE is an important factor to be considered by a shareholder because it tells them how effectively their capital is being reinvested. In other words, it is a profitability ratio which measures the rate of return on the capital provided by the company's shareholders.

See our latest analysis for SJW Group

How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for ROE is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for SJW Group is:

6.9% = US$85m ÷ US$1.2b (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2024).

The 'return' is the profit over the last twelve months. One way to conceptualize this is that for each $1 of shareholders' capital it has, the company made $0.07 in profit.

Does SJW Group Have A Good Return On Equity?

One simple way to determine if a company has a good return on equity is to compare it to the average for its industry. Importantly, this is far from a perfect measure, because companies differ significantly within the same industry classification. As is clear from the image below, SJW Group has a lower ROE than the average (9.6%) in the Water Utilities industry.

roe
NYSE:SJW Return on Equity May 24th 2024

That certainly isn't ideal. That being said, a low ROE is not always a bad thing, especially if the company has low leverage as this still leaves room for improvement if the company were to take on more debt. When a company has low ROE but high debt levels, we would be cautious as the risk involved is too high. Our risks dashboard should have the 3 risks we have identified for SJW Group.

How Does Debt Impact Return On Equity?

Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. That cash can come from issuing shares, retained earnings, 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 use of debt will improve the returns, but will not change the equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.

SJW Group's Debt And Its 6.9% ROE

SJW Group clearly uses a high amount of debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 1.43. With a fairly low ROE, and significant use of debt, it's hard to get excited about this business at the moment. Debt increases risk and reduces options for the company in the future, so you generally want to see some good returns from using it.

Summary

Return on equity is one way we can compare its business quality of different companies. Companies that can achieve high returns on equity without too much debt are generally of good quality. All else being equal, a higher ROE is better.

But when a business is high quality, the market often bids it up to a price that reflects this. It is important to consider other factors, such as future profit growth -- and how much investment is required going forward. So I think it may be worth checking this free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

But note: SJW Group may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with high ROE and low debt.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether SJW Group is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

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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.