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Should We Be Delighted With COSCO SHIPPING Holdings Co., Ltd.'s (HKG:1919) ROE Of 6.5%?

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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. To keep the lesson grounded in practicality, we'll use ROE to better understand COSCO SHIPPING Holdings Co., Ltd. (HKG:1919).

COSCO SHIPPING Holdings has a ROE of 6.5%, based on the last twelve months. Another way to think of that is that for every HK$1 worth of equity in the company, it was able to earn HK$0.07.

Check out our latest analysis for COSCO SHIPPING Holdings

How Do I Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for ROE is:

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

Or for COSCO SHIPPING Holdings:

6.5% = CN¥4.2b ÷ CN¥65b (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Most know that net profit is the total earnings after all expenses, but the concept of shareholders' equity is a little more complicated. It is all earnings retained by the company, plus any capital paid in by shareholders. You can calculate shareholders' equity by subtracting the company's total liabilities from its total assets.

What Does ROE Signify?

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 amount earned after tax over the last twelve months. That means that the higher the ROE, the more profitable the company is. So, as a general rule, a high ROE is a good thing. Clearly, then, one can use ROE to compare different companies.

Does COSCO SHIPPING Holdings Have A Good ROE?

By comparing a company's ROE with its industry average, we can get a quick measure of how good it is. 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, COSCO SHIPPING Holdings has a better ROE than the average (5.3%) in the Shipping industry.

SEHK:1919 Past Revenue and Net Income, January 24th 2020
SEHK:1919 Past Revenue and Net Income, January 24th 2020

That's clearly a positive. In my book, a high ROE almost always warrants a closer look. For example you might check if insiders are buying shares.

How Does Debt Impact 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 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.

COSCO SHIPPING Holdings's Debt And Its 6.5% ROE

COSCO SHIPPING Holdings clearly uses a significant amount of debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 1.59. Its ROE isn't too bad, but it would probably be very disappointing if the company had to stop using debt. Investors should think carefully about how a company might perform if it was unable to borrow so easily, because credit markets do change over time.

The Bottom Line On ROE

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

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. It is important to consider other factors, such as future profit growth -- and how much investment is required going forward. So you might want to take a peek at this data-rich interactive graph of forecasts for the company.

Of course COSCO SHIPPING Holdings 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.

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.