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Should We Be Cautious About Sharps Compliance Corp.'s (NASDAQ:SMED) ROE Of 3.6%?

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Simply Wall St
·4 min read
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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 Sharps Compliance Corp. (NASDAQ:SMED), by way of a worked example.

Sharps Compliance has a ROE of 3.6%, based on the last twelve months. That means that for every $1 worth of shareholders' equity, it generated $0.04 in profit.

Check out our latest analysis for Sharps Compliance

How Do I Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for ROE is:

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

Or for Sharps Compliance:

3.6% = US$1.0m ÷ US$28m (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 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. You can calculate shareholders' equity by subtracting the company's total liabilities from its total assets.

What Does ROE Mean?

Return on Equity measures a company's profitability against the profit it has kept for the business (plus any capital injections). The 'return' is the profit over the last twelve months. A higher profit will lead to a higher ROE. So, all else equal, investors should like a high ROE. Clearly, then, one can use ROE to compare different companies.

Does Sharps Compliance Have A Good ROE?

Arguably the easiest way to assess company's ROE is to compare it with the average in its industry. However, this method is only useful as a rough check, because companies do differ quite a bit within the same industry classification. As is clear from the image below, Sharps Compliance has a lower ROE than the average (12%) in the Healthcare industry.

NasdaqCM:SMED Past Revenue and Net Income, March 18th 2020
NasdaqCM:SMED Past Revenue and Net Income, March 18th 2020

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 could be useful to double-check if insiders have sold shares recently.

The Importance Of Debt To Return On Equity

Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. That cash can come from retained earnings, issuing new shares (equity), 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 use of debt will improve the returns, but will not change the equity. That will make the ROE look better than if no debt was used.

Sharps Compliance's Debt And Its 3.6% ROE

Although Sharps Compliance does use a little debt, its debt to equity ratio of just 0.063 is very low. Its ROE is certainly on the low side, and since it already uses debt, we're not too excited about the company. Conservative use of debt to boost returns is usually a good move for shareholders, though it does leave the company more exposed to interest rate rises.

The Bottom Line On ROE

Return on equity is one way we can compare the business quality of different companies. In my book the highest quality companies have high return on equity, despite low debt. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.

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.

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

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.

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. Thank you for reading.