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Boasting A 32% Return On Equity, Is Advanced Emissions Solutions, Inc. (NASDAQ:ADES) A Top Quality Stock?

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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 Advanced Emissions Solutions, Inc. (NASDAQ:ADES), by way of a worked example.

Our data shows Advanced Emissions Solutions has a return on equity of 32% for the last year. That means that for every $1 worth of shareholders' equity, it generated $0.32 in profit.

See our latest analysis for Advanced Emissions Solutions

How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for ROE is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders' Equity

Or for Advanced Emissions Solutions:

32% = US$35m ÷ US$108m (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

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. Shareholders' equity can be calculated by subtracting the total liabilities of the company from the total assets of the company.

What Does ROE Signify?

ROE measures a company's profitability against the profit it retains, and any outside investments. The 'return' is the amount earned after tax over the last twelve months. That means that the higher the ROE, the more profitable the company is. So, all else equal, investors should like a high ROE. That means ROE can be used to compare two businesses.

Does Advanced Emissions Solutions 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. Importantly, this is far from a perfect measure, because companies differ significantly within the same industry classification. As is clear from the image below, Advanced Emissions Solutions has a better ROE than the average (14%) in the Chemicals industry.

NasdaqGM:ADES Past Revenue and Net Income, August 9th 2019
NasdaqGM:ADES Past Revenue and Net Income, August 9th 2019

That's clearly a positive. I usually take a closer look when a company has a better ROE than industry peers. For example you might check if insiders are buying shares.

How Does Debt Impact Return On Equity?

Most companies need money -- from somewhere -- to grow their profits. The cash for investment can come from prior year profits (retained earnings), issuing new shares, or borrowing. 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.

Combining Advanced Emissions Solutions's Debt And Its 32% Return On Equity

Although Advanced Emissions Solutions does use debt, its debt to equity ratio of 0.54 is still low. Its ROE is very impressive, and given only modest debt, this suggests the business is high quality. Judicious use of debt to improve returns can certainly be a good thing, although it does elevate risk slightly and reduce future optionality.

In Summary

Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. A company that can achieve a high return on equity without debt could be considered a high quality business. All else being equal, a higher ROE is better.

But when a business is high quality, the market often bids it up to a price that reflects this. 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: Advanced Emissions Solutions 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.

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 editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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.