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Despite the downward trend in earnings at Driver Group (LON:DRV) the stock swells 11%, bringing one-year gains to 51%

·3 min read

These days it's easy to simply buy an index fund, and your returns should (roughly) match the market. But investors can boost returns by picking market-beating companies to own shares in. For example, the Driver Group plc (LON:DRV) share price is up 46% in the last 1 year, clearly besting the market return of around 32% (not including dividends). If it can keep that out-performance up over the long term, investors will do very well! On the other hand, longer term shareholders have had a tougher run, with the stock falling 14% in three years.

After a strong gain in the past week, it's worth seeing if longer term returns have been driven by improving fundamentals.

Check out our latest analysis for Driver Group

To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.

During the last year, Driver Group actually saw its earnings per share drop 67%.

This means it's unlikely the market is judging the company based on earnings growth. Indeed, when EPS is declining but the share price is up, it often means the market is considering other factors.

We are skeptical of the suggestion that the 1.1% dividend yield would entice buyers to the stock. Driver Group's revenue actually dropped 12% over last year. So using a snapshot of key business metrics doesn't give us a good picture of why the market is bidding up the stock.

You can see how earnings and revenue have changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).

earnings-and-revenue-growth
earnings-and-revenue-growth

You can see how its balance sheet has strengthened (or weakened) over time in this free interactive graphic.

What About Dividends?

When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. The TSR is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. In the case of Driver Group, it has a TSR of 51% for the last 1 year. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

It's nice to see that Driver Group shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 51% over the last year. Of course, that includes the dividend. Since the one-year TSR is better than the five-year TSR (the latter coming in at 4% per year), it would seem that the stock's performance has improved in recent times. Someone with an optimistic perspective could view the recent improvement in TSR as indicating that the business itself is getting better with time. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. To that end, you should be aware of the 5 warning signs we've spotted with Driver Group .

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of companies we expect will grow earnings.

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on GB exchanges.

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.

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