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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 Altice USA, Inc. (NYSE:ATUS).
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 short, ROE shows the profit each dollar generates with respect to its shareholder investments.
How Is ROE Calculated?
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 Altice USA is:
15% = US$109m ÷ US$745m (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2020).
The 'return' is the profit over the last twelve months. Another way to think of that is that for every $1 worth of equity, the company was able to earn $0.15 in profit.
Does Altice USA 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, Altice USA has a better ROE than the average (12%) in the Media industry.
That's clearly a positive. Bear in mind, a high ROE doesn't always mean superior financial performance. Especially when a firm uses high levels of debt to finance its debt which may boost its ROE but the high leverage puts the company at risk. You can see the 5 risks we have identified for Altice USA by visiting our risks dashboard for free on our platform here.
The Importance Of Debt To Return On Equity
Most companies need money -- from somewhere -- to grow their profits. That cash can come from issuing shares, retained earnings, or debt. In the first two cases, the ROE will capture this use of capital to grow. 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.
Altice USA's Debt And Its 15% ROE
It appears that Altice USA makes extensive use of debt to improve its returns, because it has an alarmingly high debt to equity ratio of 34.68. Its ROE is decent, but once I consider all the debt, I'm not really impressed.
Return on equity is a useful indicator of the ability of a business to generate profits and return them to shareholders. In our books, the highest quality companies have high return on equity, despite low debt. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.
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 you might want to take a peek at this data-rich interactive graph of forecasts for the company.
But note: Altice USA 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.
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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