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Is American Electric Power Company, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:AEP) 11% ROE Better Than Average?

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·4 min read
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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 American Electric Power Company, Inc. (NASDAQ:AEP).

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.

See our latest analysis for American Electric Power Company

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 American Electric Power Company is:

11% = US$2.2b ÷ US$21b (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2020).

The 'return' is the amount earned after tax over the last twelve months. One way to conceptualize this is that for each $1 of shareholders' capital it has, the company made $0.11 in profit.

Does American Electric Power Company Have A Good Return On Equity?

By comparing a company's ROE with its industry average, we can get a quick measure of how good it is. Importantly, this is far from a perfect measure, because companies differ significantly within the same industry classification. If you look at the image below, you can see American Electric Power Company has a similar ROE to the average in the Electric Utilities industry classification (9.4%).

roe
roe

That isn't amazing, but it is respectable. Even if the ROE is respectable when compared to the industry, its worth checking if the firm's ROE is being aided by high debt levels. If so, this increases its exposure to financial risk. You can see the 2 risks we have identified for American Electric Power Company by visiting our risks dashboard for free on our platform here.

Why You Should Consider Debt When Looking At ROE

Most companies need money -- from somewhere -- 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 debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders' equity. That will make the ROE look better than if no debt was used.

American Electric Power Company's Debt And Its 11% ROE

American Electric Power Company does use a high amount of debt to increase returns. It has a debt to equity ratio of 1.62. Its ROE is quite low, even with the use of significant debt; that's not a good result, in our opinion. Investors should think carefully about how a company might perform if it was unable to borrow so easily, because credit markets do change over time.

Summary

Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. A company that can achieve a high return on equity without debt could be considered a high quality business. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.

Having said that, while ROE is a useful indicator of business quality, you'll have to look at a whole range of factors to determine the right price to buy a stock. 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: American Electric Power Company 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.

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