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Did Changing Sentiment Drive Helmerich & Payne's (NYSE:HP) Share Price Down A Worrying 53%?

Simply Wall St

For many, the main point of investing is to generate higher returns than the overall market. But even the best stock picker will only win with some selections. So we wouldn't blame long term Helmerich & Payne, Inc. (NYSE:HP) shareholders for doubting their decision to hold, with the stock down 53% over a half decade. And some of the more recent buyers are probably worried, too, with the stock falling 41% in the last year. Shareholders have had an even rougher run lately, with the share price down 24% in the last 90 days.

View our latest analysis for Helmerich & Payne

While markets are a powerful pricing mechanism, share prices reflect investor sentiment, not just underlying business performance. 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 five years of share price growth, Helmerich & Payne moved from a loss to profitability. On the other hand, it reported a trailing twelve months loss, suggesting it isn't reliably profitable. Other metrics may better explain the share price move.

The steady dividend doesn't really explain why the share price is down. It could be that the revenue decline of 10% per year is viewed as evidence that Helmerich & Payne is shrinking. With dividends up, but revenue down, some investors might be concluding that the company is no longer growing.

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

NYSE:HP Income Statement, October 22nd 2019

Helmerich & Payne is a well known stock, with plenty of analyst coverage, suggesting some visibility into future growth. Given we have quite a good number of analyst forecasts, it might be well worth checking out this free chart depicting consensus estimates.

What About Dividends?

When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. As it happens, Helmerich & Payne's TSR for the last 5 years was -41%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

Helmerich & Payne shareholders are down 38% for the year (even including dividends) , but the market itself is up 10%. Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. Unfortunately, last year's performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 10% over the last half decade. We realise that Buffett has said investors should 'buy when there is blood on the streets', but we caution that investors should first be sure they are buying a high quality businesses. Before spending more time on Helmerich & Payne it might be wise to click here to see if insiders have been buying or selling shares.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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

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.

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. Thank you for reading.