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Should We Be Delighted With Northrop Grumman Corporation's (NYSE:NOC) ROE Of 23%?

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Simply Wall St
·4 min read
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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. We'll use ROE to examine Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC), by way of a worked example.

Return on equity or ROE is an important factor to be considered by a shareholder because it tells them how effectively their capital is being reinvested. Put another way, it reveals the company's success at turning shareholder investments into profits.

See our latest analysis for Northrop Grumman

How To Calculate Return On Equity?

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 Northrop Grumman is:

23% = US$2.5b ÷ US$10b (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2020).

The 'return' is the profit over the last twelve months. So, this means that for every $1 of its shareholder's investments, the company generates a profit of $0.23.

Does Northrop Grumman Have A Good ROE?

One simple way to determine if a company has a good return on equity is to compare it to the average for 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 you can see in the graphic below, Northrop Grumman has a higher ROE than the average (11%) in the Aerospace & Defense industry.

roe
roe

That is a good sign. Bear in mind, a high ROE doesn't always mean superior financial performance. A higher proportion of debt in a company's capital structure may also result in a high ROE, where the high debt levels could be a huge risk .

The Importance Of Debt To Return On Equity

Most companies need money -- from somewhere -- to grow their profits. That cash can come from issuing shares, retained earnings, 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 debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders' equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.

Northrop Grumman's Debt And Its 23% ROE

It's worth noting the high use of debt by Northrop Grumman, leading to its debt to equity ratio of 1.51. While no doubt that its ROE is impressive, we would have been even more impressed had the company achieved this with lower 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.

Summary

Return on equity is one way we can compare its business quality of different companies. In our books, the highest quality companies have high return on equity, despite low debt. If two companies have around the same level of debt to equity, and one has a higher ROE, I'd generally prefer the one with higher ROE.

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 Northrop Grumman 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.

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.

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