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Most readers would already be aware that Acme United's (NYSEMKT:ACU) stock increased significantly by 18% over the past month. As most would know, fundamentals are what usually guide market price movements over the long-term, so we decided to look at the company's key financial indicators today to determine if they have any role to play in the recent price movement. In this article, we decided to focus on Acme United's ROE.
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. Put another way, it reveals the company's success at turning shareholder investments into profits.
How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?
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 Acme United is:
12% = US$7.0m ÷ US$61m (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2020).
The 'return' is the income the business earned over the last year. So, this means that for every $1 of its shareholder's investments, the company generates a profit of $0.12.
What Is The Relationship Between ROE And Earnings Growth?
So far, we've learned that ROE is a measure of a company's profitability. Depending on how much of these profits the company reinvests or "retains", and how effectively it does so, we are then able to assess a company’s earnings growth potential. 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 Acme United's Earnings Growth And 12% ROE
To begin with, Acme United seems to have a respectable ROE. Further, the company's ROE compares quite favorably to the industry average of 9.4%. Yet, Acme United has posted measly growth of 2.4% over the past five years. This is generally not the case as when a company has a high rate of return it should usually also have a high earnings growth rate. Such a scenario is likely to take place when a company pays out a huge portion of its earnings as dividends, or is faced with competitive pressures.
Next, on comparing with the industry net income growth, we found that Acme United's reported growth was lower than the industry growth of 10% in the same period, which is not something we like to see.
Earnings growth is an important metric to consider when valuing a stock. It’s important for an investor to know whether the market has priced in the company's expected earnings growth (or decline). By doing so, they will have an idea if the stock is headed into clear blue waters or if swampy waters await. One good indicator of expected earnings growth is the P/E ratio which determines the price the market is willing to pay for a stock based on its earnings prospects. So, you may want to check if Acme United is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to its industry.
Is Acme United Making Efficient Use Of Its Profits?
While Acme United has a decent three-year median payout ratio of 32% (or a retention ratio of 68%), it has seen very little growth in earnings. So there might be other factors at play here which could potentially be hampering growth. For example, the business has faced some headwinds.
In addition, Acme United has been paying dividends over a period of at least ten years suggesting that keeping up dividend payments is way more important to the management even if it comes at the cost of business growth.
On the whole, we do feel that Acme United has some positive attributes. Although, we are disappointed to see a lack of growth in earnings even in spite of a high ROE and and a high reinvestment rate. We believe that there might be some outside factors that could be having a negative impact on the business. While we won't completely dismiss the company, what we would do, is try to ascertain how risky the business is to make a more informed decision around the company. Our risks dashboard will have the 1 risk we have identified for Acme United.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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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