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Should We Be Cautious About Sabra Health Care REIT, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:SBRA) ROE Of 4.6%?

Simply Wall St

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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 Sabra Health Care REIT, Inc. (NASDAQ:SBRA).

Our data shows Sabra Health Care REIT has a return on equity of 4.6% for the last year. Another way to think of that is that for every $1 worth of equity in the company, it was able to earn $0.046.

See our latest analysis for Sabra Health Care REIT

How Do I Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for ROE is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders' Equity

Or for Sabra Health Care REIT:

4.6% = US$132m ÷ US$3.1b (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

It's easy to understand the 'net profit' part of that equation, but 'shareholders' equity' requires further explanation. It is the capital paid in by shareholders, plus any retained earnings. Shareholders' equity can be calculated by subtracting the total liabilities of the company from the total assets of the company.

What Does Return On Equity Signify?

ROE measures a company's profitability against the profit it retains, and any outside investments. The 'return' is the yearly profit. 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 Sabra Health Care REIT 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. If you look at the image below, you can see Sabra Health Care REIT has a lower ROE than the average (6.2%) in the REITs industry classification.

NasdaqGS:SBRA Past Revenue and Net Income, June 1st 2019

That certainly isn't ideal. We prefer it when the ROE of a company is above the industry average, but it's not the be-all and end-all if it is lower. Nonetheless, it might be wise to check if insiders have been selling.

How Does Debt Impact ROE?

Virtually all companies need money to invest in the business, to grow profits. The cash for investment can come from prior year profits (retained earnings), issuing new shares, or borrowing. In the first two cases, the ROE will capture this use of capital to grow. In the latter case, the debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders' equity. That will make the ROE look better than if no debt was used.

Sabra Health Care REIT's Debt And Its 4.6% ROE

Sabra Health Care REIT does use a significant amount of debt to increase returns. It has a debt to equity ratio of 1.07. The combination of a rather low ROE and significant use of debt is not particularly appealing. Debt does bring extra risk, so it's only really worthwhile when a company generates some decent returns from it.

But It's Just One Metric

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. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.

But when a business is high quality, the market often bids it up to a price that reflects this. Profit growth rates, versus the expectations reflected in the price of the stock, are a particularly important to consider. So you might want to check this FREE visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies.

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.