I am writing today to help inform people who are new to the stock market and want to begin learning the link between company’s fundamentals and stock market performance.
Ames National Corporation (NASDAQ:ATLO) outperformed the Regional Banks industry on the basis of its ROE – producing a higher 8.9% relative to the peer average of 8.2% over the past 12 months. Superficially, this looks great since we know that ATLO has generated big profits with little equity capital; however, ROE doesn’t tell us how much ATLO has borrowed in debt. We’ll take a closer look today at factors like financial leverage to determine whether ATLO’s ROE is actually sustainable.
What you must know about ROE
Firstly, Return on Equity, or ROE, is simply the percentage of last years’ earning against the book value of shareholders’ equity. An ROE of 8.9% implies $0.089 returned on every $1 invested. Generally speaking, a higher ROE is preferred; however, there are other factors we must also consider before making any conclusions.
Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders Equity
ROE is assessed against cost of equity, which is measured using the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) – but let’s not dive into the details of that today. For now, let’s just look at the cost of equity number for Ames National, which is 10.9%. This means Ames National’s returns actually do not cover its own cost of equity, with a discrepancy of -2.0%. This isn’t sustainable as it implies, very simply, that the company pays more for its capital than what it generates in return. ROE can be dissected into three distinct ratios: net profit margin, asset turnover, and financial leverage. This is called the Dupont Formula:
ROE = profit margin × asset turnover × financial leverage
ROE = (annual net profit ÷ sales) × (sales ÷ assets) × (assets ÷ shareholders’ equity)
ROE = annual net profit ÷ shareholders’ equity
Essentially, profit margin shows how much money the company makes after paying for all its expenses. Asset turnover reveals how much revenue can be generated from Ames National’s asset base. And finally, financial leverage is simply how much of assets are funded by equity, which exhibits how sustainable the company’s capital structure is. Since ROE can be artificially increased through excessive borrowing, we should check Ames National’s historic debt-to-equity ratio. At 21.5%, Ames National’s debt-to-equity ratio appears low and indicates the above-average ROE is generated from its capacity to increase profit without a large debt burden.
ROE is one of many ratios which meaningfully dissects financial statements, which illustrates the quality of a company. Ames National exhibits a strong ROE against its peers, however it was not high enough to cover its own cost of equity this year. Its high ROE is not likely to be driven by high debt. Therefore, investors may have more confidence in the sustainability of this level of returns going forward. ROE is a helpful signal, but it is definitely not sufficient on its own to make an investment decision.
For Ames National, I’ve put together three pertinent aspects you should further examine:
- Financial Health: Does it have a healthy balance sheet? Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis with six simple checks on key factors like leverage and risk.
- Valuation: What is Ames National worth today? Is the stock undervalued, even when its growth outlook is factored into its intrinsic value? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether Ames National is currently mispriced by the market.
- Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of Ames National? Explore our interactive list of stocks with large growth potential to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!
To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.
The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at email@example.com.