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How Did MetLife, Inc.'s (NYSE:MET) 9.7% ROE Fare Against The Industry?

·3 min read

While some investors are already well versed in financial metrics (hat tip), this article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE) and why it is important. We'll use ROE to examine MetLife, Inc. (NYSE:MET), by way of a worked example.

Return on Equity or ROE is a test of how effectively a company is growing its value and managing investors’ money. Put another way, it reveals the company's success at turning shareholder investments into profits.

Check out our latest analysis for MetLife

How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?

ROE can be calculated by using the formula:

Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for MetLife is:

9.7% = US$3.6b ÷ US$37b (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2022).

The 'return' refers to a company's earnings over the last year. So, this means that for every $1 of its shareholder's investments, the company generates a profit of $0.10.

Does MetLife 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. The limitation of this approach is that some companies are quite different from others, even within the same industry classification. If you look at the image below, you can see MetLife has a similar ROE to the average in the Insurance industry classification (11%).

roe
roe

So while the ROE is not exceptional, at least its acceptable. While at least the ROE is not lower than the industry, its still worth checking what role the company's debt plays as high debt levels relative to equity may also make the ROE appear high. If true, then it is more an indication of risk than the potential.

The Importance Of Debt To Return On Equity

Most companies need money -- from somewhere -- to grow their profits. The cash for investment can come from prior year profits (retained earnings), issuing new shares, or borrowing. In the first and second cases, the ROE will reflect this use of cash for investment in the business. 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 MetLife's Debt And Its 9.7% Return On Equity

MetLife clearly uses a high amount of debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 2.75. Its ROE is quite low, even with the use of significant debt; that's not a good result, in our opinion. Investors should think carefully about how a company might perform if it was unable to borrow so easily, because credit markets do change over time.

Conclusion

Return on equity is a useful indicator of the ability of a business to generate profits and return them to shareholders. A company that can achieve a high return on equity without debt could be considered a high quality business. All else being equal, a higher ROE is better.

Having said that, while ROE is a useful indicator of business quality, you'll have to look at a whole range of factors to determine the right price to buy a stock. The rate at which profits are likely to grow, relative to the expectations of profit growth reflected in the current price, must be considered, too. So I think it may be worth checking this free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies.

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

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.

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