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Accenture's (NYSE:ACN) 15% CAGR outpaced the company's earnings growth over the same five-year period

Generally speaking the aim of active stock picking is to find companies that provide returns that are superior to the market average. And while active stock picking involves risks (and requires diversification) it can also provide excess returns. To wit, the Accenture share price has climbed 88% in five years, easily topping the market return of 42% (ignoring dividends). However, more recent returns haven't been as impressive as that, with the stock returning just 4.1% in the last year , including dividends .

Since the stock has added US$12b to its market cap in the past week alone, let's see if underlying performance has been driving long-term returns.

Check out our latest analysis for Accenture

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.

During five years of share price growth, Accenture achieved compound earnings per share (EPS) growth of 14% per year. This EPS growth is remarkably close to the 13% average annual increase in the share price. This indicates that investor sentiment towards the company has not changed a great deal. Rather, the share price has approximately tracked EPS growth.

The company's earnings per share (over time) is depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).


Dive deeper into Accenture's key metrics by checking this interactive graph of Accenture's earnings, revenue and cash flow.

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. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. In the case of Accenture, it has a TSR of 102% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

It's good to see that Accenture has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 4.1% in the last twelve months. And that does include the dividend. Having said that, the five-year TSR of 15% a year, is even better. The pessimistic view would be that be that the stock has its best days behind it, but on the other hand the price might simply be moderating while the business itself continues to execute. Most investors take the time to check the data on insider transactions. You can click here to see if insiders have been buying or selling.

Of course Accenture may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of growth stocks.

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

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

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.

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