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Did Loblaw Companies's (TSE:L) Share Price Deserve to Gain 36%?

Simply Wall St

Stock pickers are generally looking for stocks that will outperform the broader market. And the truth is, you can make significant gains if you buy good quality businesses at the right price. For example, long term Loblaw Companies Limited (TSE:L) shareholders have enjoyed a 36% share price rise over the last half decade, well in excess of the market return of around 6.9% (not including dividends). On the other hand, the more recent gains haven't been so impressive, with shareholders gaining just 44% , including dividends .

See our latest analysis for Loblaw Companies

While markets are a powerful pricing mechanism, share prices reflect investor sentiment, not just underlying business performance. One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.

During the five years of share price growth, Loblaw Companies moved from a loss to profitability. That's generally thought to be a genuine positive, so we would expect to see an increasing share price. Since the company was unprofitable five years ago, but not three years ago, it's worth taking a look at the returns in the last three years, too. Indeed, the Loblaw Companies share price has gained 12% in three years. Meanwhile, EPS is up 7.4% per year. This EPS growth is higher than the 3.8% average annual increase in the share price over the same three years. So you might conclude the market is a little more cautious about the stock, these days.

The graphic below depicts how EPS has changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).

TSX:L Past and Future Earnings, September 26th 2019

It's probably worth noting we've seen significant insider buying in the last quarter, which we consider a positive. That said, we think earnings and revenue growth trends are even more important factors to consider. Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here..

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). 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. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. As it happens, Loblaw Companies's TSR for the last 5 years was 83%, 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

It's good to see that Loblaw Companies has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 44% in the last twelve months. And that does include the dividend. That's better than the annualised return of 13% over half a decade, implying that the company is doing better recently. Given the share price momentum remains strong, it might be worth taking a closer look at the stock, lest you miss an opportunity. If you want to research this stock further, the data on insider buying is an obvious place to start. You can click here to see who has been buying shares - and the price they paid.

Loblaw Companies is not the only stock insiders are buying. So take a peek at this free list of growing companies with insider buying.

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