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AZZ Inc. (NYSE:AZZ) Has Fared Decently But Fundamentals Look Uncertain: What Lies Ahead For The Stock?

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AZZ's (NYSE:AZZ) stock up by 6.0% over the past three months. However, we decided to study the company's mixed-bag of fundamentals to assess what this could mean for future share prices, as stock prices tend to be aligned with a company's long-term financial performance. Specifically, we decided to study AZZ's ROE in this article.

Return on equity or ROE is an important factor to be considered by a shareholder because it tells them how effectively their capital is being reinvested. In simpler terms, it measures the profitability of a company in relation to shareholder's equity.

View our latest analysis for AZZ

How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?

Return on equity can be calculated by using the formula:

Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for AZZ is:

2.4% = US$15m ÷ US$632m (Based on the trailing twelve months to August 2020).

The 'return' is the profit over the last twelve months. So, this means that for every $1 of its shareholder's investments, the company generates a profit of $0.02.

What Has ROE Got To Do With Earnings Growth?

Thus far, we have learned that ROE measures how efficiently a company is generating its profits. Depending on how much of these profits the company reinvests or "retains", and how effectively it does so, we are then able to assess a company’s earnings growth potential. Generally speaking, other things being equal, firms with a high return on equity and profit retention, have a higher growth rate than firms that don’t share these attributes.

AZZ's Earnings Growth And 2.4% ROE

It is quite clear that AZZ's ROE is rather low. Even compared to the average industry ROE of 9.6%, the company's ROE is quite dismal. Therefore, it might not be wrong to say that the five year net income decline of 12% seen by AZZ was possibly a result of it having a lower ROE. We believe that there also might be other aspects that are negatively influencing the company's earnings prospects. For example, the business has allocated capital poorly, or that the company has a very high payout ratio.

However, when we compared AZZ's growth with the industry we found that while the company's earnings have been shrinking, the industry has seen an earnings growth of 6.8% in the same period. This is quite worrisome.

past-earnings-growth
past-earnings-growth

Earnings growth is a huge factor in stock valuation. The investor should try to establish if the expected growth or decline in earnings, whichever the case may be, is priced in. This then helps them determine if the stock is placed for a bright or bleak future. What is AZZ worth today? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether AZZ is currently mispriced by the market.

Is AZZ Using Its Retained Earnings Effectively?

Looking at its three-year median payout ratio of 36% (or a retention ratio of 64%) which is pretty normal, AZZ's declining earnings is rather baffling as one would expect to see a fair bit of growth when a company is retaining a good portion of its profits. So there might be other factors at play here which could potentially be hampering growth. For example, the business has faced some headwinds.

Additionally, AZZ has paid dividends over a period of at least ten years, which means that the company's management is determined to pay dividends even if it means little to no earnings growth. Existing analyst estimates suggest that the company's future payout ratio is expected to drop to 24% over the next three years. The fact that the company's ROE is expected to rise to 10% over the same period is explained by the drop in the payout ratio.

Conclusion

On the whole, we feel that the performance shown by AZZ can be open to many interpretations. While the company does have a high rate of profit retention, its low rate of return is probably hampering its earnings growth. That being so, the latest industry analyst forecasts show that the analysts are expecting to see a huge improvement in the company's earnings growth rate. Are these analysts expectations based on the broad expectations for the industry, or on the company's fundamentals? Click here to be taken to our analyst's forecasts page for the company.

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@simplywallst.com.