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Contact Energy (NZSE:CEN) has had a great run on the share market with its stock up by a significant 18% over the last three months. However, we wonder if the company's inconsistent financials would have any adverse impact on the current share price momentum. In this article, we decided to focus on Contact Energy's ROE.
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. Simply put, it is used to assess the profitability of a company in relation to its equity capital.
How Is ROE Calculated?
The formula for return on equity is:
Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity
So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Contact Energy is:
5.7% = NZ$144m ÷ NZ$2.5b (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2020).
The 'return' refers to a company's earnings over the last year. One way to conceptualize this is that for each NZ$1 of shareholders' capital it has, the company made NZ$0.06 in profit.
Why Is ROE Important For Earnings Growth?
So far, we've learned that ROE is a measure of a company's profitability. Depending on how much of these profits the company reinvests or "retains", and how effectively it does so, we are then able to assess a company’s earnings growth potential. Assuming everything else remains unchanged, the higher the ROE and profit retention, the higher the growth rate of a company compared to companies that don't necessarily bear these characteristics.
Contact Energy's Earnings Growth And 5.7% ROE
When you first look at it, Contact Energy's ROE doesn't look that attractive. However, its ROE is similar to the industry average of 6.1%, so we won't completely dismiss the company. Moreover, we are quite pleased to see that Contact Energy's net income grew significantly at a rate of 27% over the last five years. Taking into consideration that the ROE is not particularly high, we reckon that there could also be other factors at play which could be influencing the company's growth. For example, it is possible that the company's management has made some good strategic decisions, or that the company has a low payout ratio.
Next, on comparing with the industry net income growth, we found that Contact Energy's growth is quite high when compared to the industry average growth of 6.8% in the same period, which is great to see.
Earnings growth is a huge factor in stock valuation. The investor should try to establish if the expected growth or decline in earnings, whichever the case may be, is priced in. Doing so will help them establish if the stock's future looks promising or ominous. Is CEN fairly valued? This infographic on the company's intrinsic value has everything you need to know.
Is Contact Energy Efficiently Re-investing Its Profits?
The really high three-year median payout ratio of 203% for Contact Energy suggests that the company is paying its shareholders more than what it is earning. In spite of this, the company was able to grow its earnings significantly, as we saw above. Having said that, the high payout ratio is definitely risky and something to keep an eye on. You can see the 4 risks we have identified for Contact Energy by visiting our risks dashboard for free on our platform here.
Moreover, Contact Energy is determined to keep sharing its profits with shareholders which we infer from its long history of paying a dividend for at least ten years. Upon studying the latest analysts' consensus data, we found that the company's future payout ratio is expected to drop to 158% over the next three years. Despite the lower expected payout ratio, the company's ROE is not expected to change by much.
Overall, we have mixed feelings about Contact Energy. While no doubt its earnings growth is pretty substantial, its ROE and earnings retention is quite poor. So while the company has managed to grow its earnings in spite of this, we are unconvinced if this growth could extend, especially during troubled times. With that said, the latest industry analyst forecasts reveal that the company's earnings growth is expected to slow down. Are these analysts expectations based on the broad expectations for the industry, or on the company's fundamentals? Click here to be taken to our analyst's forecasts page for the company.
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. 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.
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