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Low-cost index funds make it easy to achieve average market returns. But in any diversified portfolio of stocks, you'll see some that fall short of the average. For example, the Manchester United plc (NYSE:MANU) share price return of 14% over three years lags the market return in the same period. Disappointingly, the share price is down 13% in the last year.
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.
Over the last three years, Manchester United failed to grow earnings per share, which fell 39% (annualized). Earnings per share have melted like a stack of ice cubes, in stark contrast to the share price. So we'll need to take a look at some different metrics to try to understand why the share price remains solid.
Languishing at just 1.0%, we doubt the dividend is doing much to prop up the share price. It may well be that Manchester United revenue growth rate of 7.5% over three years has convinced shareholders to believe in a brighter future. In that case, the company may be sacrificing current earnings per share to drive growth, and maybe shareholder's faith in better days ahead will be rewarded.
The graphic below depicts how earnings and revenue have changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).
This free interactive report on Manchester United's balance sheet strength is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.
What About Dividends?
It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. 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. In the case of Manchester United, it has a TSR of 18% for the last 3 years. 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
While the broader market gained around 6.2% in the last year, Manchester United shareholders lost 12% (even including dividends). However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. Longer term investors wouldn't be so upset, since they would have made 0.6%, each year, over five years. If the fundamental data continues to indicate long term sustainable growth, the current sell-off could be an opportunity worth considering. You could get a better understanding of Manchester United's growth by checking out this more detailed historical graph of earnings, revenue and cash flow.
If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.
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 email@example.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.