U.S. Markets open in 1 hr 9 mins

Did You Miss Unitil's (NYSE:UTL) 72% Share Price Gain?

Simply Wall St

When we invest, we're generally looking for stocks that outperform the market average. And while active stock picking involves risks (and requires diversification) it can also provide excess returns. To wit, the Unitil share price has climbed 72% in five years, easily topping the market return of 56% (ignoring dividends). On the other hand, the more recent gains haven't been so impressive, with shareholders gaining just 30% , including dividends .

View our latest analysis for Unitil

While markets are a powerful pricing mechanism, share prices reflect investor sentiment, not just underlying business performance. One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.

Over half a decade, Unitil managed to grow its earnings per share at 9.7% a year. This EPS growth is reasonably close to the 11% average annual increase in the share price. This indicates that investor sentiment towards the company has not changed a great deal. Indeed, it would appear the share price is reacting to the EPS.

You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).

NYSE:UTL Past and Future Earnings, January 17th 2020

We know that Unitil has improved its bottom line lately, but is it going to grow revenue? You could check out this free report showing analyst revenue forecasts.

What About Dividends?

It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. 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. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. In the case of Unitil, it has a TSR of 102% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

It's good to see that Unitil has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 30% in the last twelve months. That's including the dividend. That gain is better than the annual TSR over five years, which is 15%. Therefore it seems like sentiment around the company has been positive lately. 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. Be aware that Unitil is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those is a bit concerning...

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 US exchanges.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.