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Is Arcos Dorados Holdings Inc.’s (NYSE:ARCO) 24% Better Than Average?

Scott Perkins

One of the best investments we can make is in our own knowledge and skill set. With that in mind, this article will work through how we can use Return On Equity (ROE) to better understand a business. By way of learning-by-doing, we’ll look at ROE to gain a better understanding of Arcos Dorados Holdings Inc. (NYSE:ARCO).

Arcos Dorados Holdings has a ROE of 24%, based on the last twelve months. One way to conceptualize this, is that for each $1 of shareholders’ equity it has, the company made $0.24 in profit.

View our latest analysis for Arcos Dorados Holdings

How Do I Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for ROE is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders’ Equity

Or for Arcos Dorados Holdings:

24% = 96.882 ÷ US$407m (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Most readers would understand what net profit is, but it’s worth explaining the concept of shareholders’ equity. It is all the money paid into the company from shareholders, plus any earnings retained. You can calculate shareholders’ equity by subtracting the company’s total liabilities from its total assets.

What Does ROE Mean?

ROE measures a company’s profitability against the profit it retains, and any outside investments. The ‘return’ is the profit over the last twelve months. The higher the ROE, the more profit the company is making. So, all else being equal, a high ROE is better than a low one. That means ROE can be used to compare two businesses.

Does Arcos Dorados Holdings Have A Good ROE?

One simple way to determine if a company has a good return on equity is to compare it to the average for its industry. However, this method is only useful as a rough check, because companies do differ quite a bit within the same industry classification. As you can see in the graphic below, Arcos Dorados Holdings has a higher ROE than the average (17%) in the Hospitality industry.

NYSE:ARCO Last Perf January 25th 19

That’s what I like to see. In my book, a high ROE almost always warrants a closer look. One data point to check is if insiders have bought shares recently.

Why You Should Consider Debt When Looking At ROE

Virtually all companies need money to invest in the business, to grow profits. That cash can come from issuing shares, retained earnings, or debt. In the case of the first and second options, the ROE will reflect this use of cash, for growth. In the latter case, the debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders’ equity. In this manner the use of debt will boost ROE, even though the core economics of the business stay the same.

Arcos Dorados Holdings’s Debt And Its 24% ROE

Arcos Dorados Holdings does use a significant amount of debt to increase returns. It has a debt to equity ratio of 1.57. There’s no doubt its ROE is impressive, but the company appears to use its debt to boost that metric. Debt does bring extra risk, so it’s only really worthwhile when a company generates some decent returns from it.

The Bottom Line On ROE

Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. Companies that can achieve high returns on equity without too much debt are generally of good quality. All else being equal, a higher ROE is better.

But ROE is just one piece of a bigger puzzle, since high quality businesses often trade on high multiples of earnings. 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: Arcos Dorados Holdings 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.

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 editorial-team@simplywallst.com.