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Will Capella Education Company (NASDAQ:CPLA) Continue To Underperform Its Industry?

Cole Patterson

This article is intended for those of you who are at the beginning of your investing journey and want a simplistic look at the return on Capella Education Company (NASDAQ:CPLA) stock.

Capella Education Company’s (NASDAQ:CPLA) most recent return on equity was a substandard 11.59% relative to its industry performance of 12.94% over the past year. Though CPLA’s recent performance is underwhelming, it is useful to understand what ROE is made up of and how it should be interpreted. Knowing these components can change your views on CPLA’s below-average returns. Today I will look at how components such as financial leverage can influence ROE which may impact the sustainability of CPLA’s returns. See our latest analysis for Capella Education

Peeling the layers of ROE – trisecting a company’s profitability

Return on Equity (ROE) is a measure of Capella Education’s profit relative to its shareholders’ equity. It essentially shows how much the company can generate in earnings given the amount of equity it has raised. 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. Capella Education’s cost of equity is 8.87%. While Capella Education’s peers may have higher ROE, it may also incur higher cost of equity. An undesirable and unsustainable practice would be if returns exceeded cost. However, this is not the case for Capella Education which is encouraging. ROE can be split up into three useful 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

NasdaqGS:CPLA Last Perf June 22nd 18

The first component is profit margin, which measures how much of sales is retained after the company pays for all its expenses. The other component, asset turnover, illustrates how much revenue Capella Education can make from its asset base. Finally, financial leverage will be our main focus today. It shows how much of assets are funded by equity and can show how sustainable the company’s capital structure is. Since ROE can be artificially increased through excessive borrowing, we should check Capella Education’s historic debt-to-equity ratio. Currently, Capella Education has no debt which means its returns are driven purely by equity capital. This could explain why Capella Education’s’ ROE is lower than its industry peers, most of which may have some degree of debt in its business.

NasdaqGS:CPLA Historical Debt June 22nd 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. While Capella Education exhibits a weak ROE against its peers, its returns are sufficient enough to cover its cost of equity. Also, ROE is not likely to be inflated by excessive debt funding, giving shareholders more conviction in the sustainability of returns, which has headroom to increase further. Although ROE can be a useful metric, it is only a small part of diligent research.

For Capella Education, I’ve put together three pertinent aspects you should further examine:

  1. Financial Health: Does it have a healthy balance sheet? Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis with six simple checks on key factors like leverage and risk.
  2. Valuation: What is Capella Education worth today? Is the stock undervalued, even when its growth outlook is factored into its intrinsic value? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether Capella Education is currently mispriced by the market.
  3. Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of Capella Education? Explore our interactive list of stocks with large growth potential to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!


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.