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Boasting A 20% Return On Equity, Is Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc (NYSE:ELS) A Top Quality Stock?

Many investors are still learning about the various metrics that can be useful when analysing a stock. This article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE). We’ll use ROE to examine Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc (NYSE:ELS), by way of a worked example.

Our data shows Equity LifeStyle Properties has a return on equity of 20% for the last year. One way to conceptualize this, is that for each $1 of shareholders’ equity it has, the company made $0.20 in profit.

Check out our latest analysis for Equity LifeStyle Properties

How Do I Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for ROE is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders’ Equity

Or for Equity LifeStyle Properties:

20% = US$200m ÷ US$1.1b (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)

Most know that net profit is the total earnings after all expenses, but the concept of shareholders’ equity is a little more complicated. It is all earnings retained by the company, plus any capital paid in by shareholders. Shareholders’ equity can be calculated by subtracting the total liabilities of the company from the total assets of the company.

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. That means that the higher the ROE, the more profitable the company is. So, as a general rule, a high ROE is a good thing. That means ROE can be used to compare two businesses.

Does Equity LifeStyle Properties Have A Good Return On Equity?

By comparing a company’s ROE with its industry average, we can get a quick measure of how good it is. However, this method is only useful as a rough check, because companies do differ quite a bit within the same industry classification. Pleasingly, Equity LifeStyle Properties has a superior ROE than the average (6.4%) company in the reits industry.

NYSE:ELS Last Perf October 22nd 18

That’s what I like to see. In my book, a high ROE almost always warrants a closer look. For example you might check if insiders are buying shares.

The Importance Of Debt To Return On Equity

Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. That cash can come from issuing shares, retained earnings, or debt. In the first and second cases, the ROE will reflect this use of cash for investment in the business. In the latter case, the debt used for growth will improve returns, but won’t affect the total equity. In this manner the use of debt will boost ROE, even though the core economics of the business stay the same.

Combining Equity LifeStyle Properties’s Debt And Its 20% Return On Equity

Equity LifeStyle Properties does use a significant amount of debt to increase returns. It has a debt to equity ratio of 2.02. while its ROE is respectable, it is worth keeping in mind that there is usually a limit to how much debt a company can use. Investors should think carefully about how a company might perform if it was unable to borrow so easily, because credit markets do change over time.

In Summary

Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. In my book the highest quality companies have high return on equity, despite low debt. If two companies have around the same level of debt to equity, and one has a higher ROE, I’d generally prefer the one with higher ROE.

Having said that, while ROE is a useful indicator of business quality, you’ll have to look at a whole range of factors to determine the right price to buy a stock. Profit growth rates, versus the expectations reflected in the price of the stock, are a particularly important to consider. So I think it may be worth checking this free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

If you would prefer check out another company — one with potentially superior financials — then do not miss this free list of interesting companies, that have HIGH return on equity 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.