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Anthem Inc (NYSE:ANTM) Delivered A Better ROE Than The Industry, Here’s Why

Kari Hurd

Anthem Inc (NYSE:ANTM) outperformed the Managed Healthcare industry on the basis of its ROE – producing a higher 14.50% relative to the peer average of 13.31% over the past 12 months. While the impressive ratio tells us that ANTM has made significant profits from little equity capital, ROE doesn’t tell us if ANTM has borrowed debt to make this happen. In this article, we’ll closely examine some factors like financial leverage to evaluate the sustainability of ANTM’s ROE. Check out our latest analysis for Anthem

Breaking down ROE — the mother of all ratios

Return on Equity (ROE) weighs Anthem’s profit against the level of its shareholders’ equity. An ROE of 14.50% implies $0.14 returned on every $1 invested. While a higher ROE is preferred in most cases, there are several other factors we should consider before drawing any conclusions.

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders Equity

Returns are usually compared to costs to measure the efficiency of capital. Anthem’s cost of equity is 8.49%. Since Anthem’s return covers its cost in excess of 6.01%, its use of equity capital is efficient and likely to be sustainable. Simply put, Anthem pays less 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:

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

NYSE:ANTM Last Perf Feb 16th 18

The first component is profit margin, which measures how much of sales is retained after the company pays for all its expenses. Asset turnover reveals how much revenue can be generated from Anthem’s asset base. The most interesting ratio, and reflective of sustainability of its ROE, is financial leverage. Since ROE can be inflated by excessive debt, we need to examine Anthem’s debt-to-equity level. Currently the debt-to-equity ratio stands at a reasonable 76.92%, which means its above-average ROE is driven by its ability to grow its profit without a significant debt burden.

NYSE:ANTM Historical Debt Feb 16th 18

Next Steps:

While ROE is a relatively simple calculation, it can be broken down into different ratios, each telling a different story about the strengths and weaknesses of a company. Anthem’s above-industry ROE is encouraging, and is also in excess of its cost of equity. 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 Anthem, there are three important factors you should further examine:

To help readers see pass 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.