Stock Analysis

# Has Sasol's Impressive Stock Performance Been Driven By Fundamentals?

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Sasol's (JSE:SOL) stock is up by a considerable 19% over the past month. We wonder if and what role the company's financials play in that price change as a company's long-term fundamentals usually dictate market outcomes. Specifically, we decided to study Sasol's ROE in this article.

ROE or return on equity is a useful tool to assess how effectively a company can generate returns on the investment it received from its shareholders. In other words, it is a profitability ratio which measures the rate of return on the capital provided by the company's shareholders.

View our latest analysis for Sasol

## How To 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 Sasol is:

22% = R42b ÷ R193b (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2022).

The 'return' is the yearly profit. So, this means that for every ZAR1 of its shareholder's investments, the company generates a profit of ZAR0.22.

## What Is The Relationship Between ROE And Earnings Growth?

We have already established that ROE serves as an efficient profit-generating gauge for a company's future earnings. We now need to evaluate how much profit the company reinvests or "retains" for future growth which then gives us an idea about the growth potential of the company. Generally speaking, other things being equal, firms with a high return on equity and profit retention, have a higher growth rate than firms that don’t share these attributes.

## A Side By Side comparison of Sasol's Earnings Growth And 22% ROE

At first glance, Sasol seems to have a decent ROE. And on comparing with the industry, we found that the the average industry ROE is similar at 18%. For this reason, Sasol's five year net income decline of 20% raises the question as to why the decent ROE didn't translate into growth. We reckon that there could be some other factors at play here that are preventing the company's growth. For example, it could be that the company has a high payout ratio or the business has allocated capital poorly, for instance.

That being said, we compared Sasol's performance with the industry and were concerned when we found that while the company has shrunk its earnings, the industry has grown its earnings at a rate of 16% in the same period.

The basis for attaching value to a company is, to a great extent, tied to its earnings growth. What investors need to determine next is if the expected earnings growth, or the lack of it, is already built into the share price. Doing so will help them establish if the stock's future looks promising or ominous. Is SOL fairly valued? This infographic on the company's intrinsic value has everything you need to know.

## Is Sasol Efficiently Re-investing Its Profits?

Sasol's low LTM (or last twelve month) payout ratio of 24% (or a retention ratio of 76%) over the last three years should mean that the company is retaining most of its earnings to fuel its growth but the company's earnings have actually shrunk. The low payout should mean that the company is retaining most of its earnings and consequently, should see some growth. So there might be other factors at play here which could potentially be hampering growth. For instance, the business has faced some headwinds.

Additionally, Sasol has paid dividends over a period of at least ten years, which means that the company's management is determined to pay dividends even if it means little to no earnings growth. Looking at the current analyst consensus data, we can see that the company's future payout ratio is expected to rise to 41% over the next three years. Therefore, the expected rise in the payout ratio explains why the company's ROE is expected to decline to 16% over the same period.

## Summary

On the whole, we do feel that Sasol has some positive attributes. However, given the high ROE and high profit retention, we would expect the company to be delivering strong earnings growth, but that isn't the case here. This suggests that there might be some external threat to the business, that's hampering its growth. That being so, the latest industry analyst forecasts show that the analysts are expecting to see a huge improvement in the company's earnings growth rate. Are these analysts expectations based on the broad expectations for the industry, or on the company's fundamentals? Click here to be taken to our analyst's forecasts page for the company.

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