Long term investing can be life changing when you buy and hold the truly great businesses. And highest quality companies can see their share prices grow by huge amounts. Just think about the savvy investors who held Qantas Airways Limited (ASX:QAN) shares for the last five years, while they gained 309%. If that doesn't get you thinking about long term investing, we don't know what will. On top of that, the share price is up 16% in about a quarter.
While the efficient markets hypothesis continues to be taught by some, it has been proven that markets are over-reactive dynamic systems, and investors are not always rational. One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company's share price and its earnings per share (EPS).
During the five years of share price growth, Qantas Airways moved from a loss to profitability. Sometimes, the start of profitability is a major inflection point that can signal fast earnings growth to come, which in turn justifies very strong share price gains. Given that the company made a profit three years ago, but not five years ago, it is worth looking at the share price returns over the last three years, too. Indeed, the Qantas Airways share price has gained 102% in three years. Meanwhile, EPS is up 3.4% per year. Notably, the EPS growth has been slower than the annualised share price gain of 27% over three years. So one can reasonably conclude the market is more enthusiastic about the stock than it was three years ago.
You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).
It's good to see that there was some significant insider buying in the last three months. That's a positive. On the other hand, we think the revenue and earnings trends are much more meaningful measures of the business. Dive deeper into the earnings by checking this interactive graph of Qantas Airways'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). The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. In the case of Qantas Airways, it has a TSR of 392% 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
We're pleased to report that Qantas Airways shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 21% over one year. That's including the dividend. Having said that, the five-year TSR of 38% 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. It is all well and good that insiders have been buying shares, but we suggest you check here to see what price insiders were buying at.
If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on AU exchanges.
We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.