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Should We Be Delighted With Safestore Holdings plc’s (LON:SAFE) ROE Of 15%?

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 Safestore Holdings plc (LON:SAFE), by way of a worked example.

Our data shows Safestore Holdings has a return on equity of 15% for the last year. One way to conceptualize this, is that for each £1 of shareholders’ equity it has, the company made £0.15 in profit.

See our latest analysis for Safestore Holdings

How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for return on equity is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders’ Equity

Or for Safestore Holdings:

15% = UK£104m ÷ UK£704m (Based on the trailing twelve months to April 2018.)

Most readers would understand what net profit is, but it’s worth explaining the concept of shareholders’ equity. It is the capital paid in by shareholders, plus any retained earnings. Shareholders’ equity can be calculated by subtracting the total liabilities of the company from the total assets of the company.

What Does Return On Equity 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, all else being equal, a high ROE is better than a low one. That means it can be interesting to compare the ROE of different companies.

Does Safestore Holdings Have A Good Return On Equity?

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, Safestore Holdings has a better ROE than the average (9.6%) in the reits industry.

LSE:SAFE Last Perf November 15th 18

That’s what I like to see. We think a high ROE, alone, is usually enough to justify further research into a company. For example, I often check if insiders have been buying shares .

How Does Debt Impact Return On Equity?

Virtually all companies need money to invest in the business, to grow profits. That cash can come from issuing shares, retained earnings, or debt. In the case of the first and second options, the ROE will reflect this use of cash, for growth. In the latter case, the debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders’ equity. In this manner the use of debt will boost ROE, even though the core economics of the business stay the same.

Combining Safestore Holdings’s Debt And Its 15% Return On Equity

While Safestore Holdings does have some debt, with debt to equity of just 0.61, we wouldn’t say debt is excessive. Its very respectable ROE, combined with only modest debt, suggests the business is in good shape. Careful use of debt to boost returns is often very good for shareholders. However, it could reduce the company’s ability to take advantage of future opportunities.

But It’s Just One Metric

Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. A company that can achieve a high return on equity without debt could be considered a high quality business. 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.

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 take a peek at this data-rich interactive graph of forecasts for the company.

Of course Safestore 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.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.