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Should You Be Concerned About Safehold Inc.'s (NYSE:SAFE) ROE?

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While some investors are already well versed in financial metrics (hat tip), this article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE) and why it is important. We'll use ROE to examine Safehold Inc. (NYSE:SAFE), by way of a worked example.

ROE or return on equity is a useful tool to assess how effectively a company can generate returns on the investment it received from its shareholders. In simpler terms, it measures the profitability of a company in relation to shareholder's equity.

See our latest analysis for Safehold

How Is ROE Calculated?

The formula for ROE is:

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

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Safehold is:

4.0% = US$81m ÷ US$2.0b (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2022).

The 'return' is the yearly profit. Another way to think of that is that for every $1 worth of equity, the company was able to earn $0.04 in profit.

Does Safehold Have A Good ROE?

Arguably the easiest way to assess company's ROE is to compare it with the average in its industry. Importantly, this is far from a perfect measure, because companies differ significantly within the same industry classification. As shown in the graphic below, Safehold has a lower ROE than the average (6.5%) in the REITs industry classification.

roe
roe

That certainly isn't ideal. Although, we think that a lower ROE could still mean that a company has the opportunity to better its returns with the use of leverage, provided its existing debt levels are low. A company with high debt levels and low ROE is a combination we like to avoid given the risk involved. Our risks dashboard should have the 3 risks we have identified for Safehold.

How Does Debt Impact ROE?

Virtually all companies need money to invest in the business, to grow 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.

Combining Safehold's Debt And Its 4.0% Return On Equity

Safehold clearly uses a high amount of debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 1.45. The combination of a rather low ROE and significant use of debt is not particularly appealing. Debt increases risk and reduces options for the company in the future, so you generally want to see some good returns from using it.

Conclusion

Return on equity is a useful indicator of the ability of a business to generate profits and return them to shareholders. In our books, 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.

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 Safehold may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have high ROE and low debt.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.