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Did Nelnet's (NYSE:NNI) Share Price Deserve to Gain 84%?

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The main point of investing for the long term is to make money. Furthermore, you'd generally like to see the share price rise faster than the market Unfortunately for shareholders, while the Nelnet, Inc. (NYSE:NNI) share price is up 84% in the last five years, that's less than the market return. Some buyers are laughing, though, with an increase of 25% in the last year.

View our latest analysis for Nelnet

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.

During five years of share price growth, Nelnet achieved compound earnings per share (EPS) growth of 19% per year. The EPS growth is more impressive than the yearly share price gain of 13% over the same period. Therefore, it seems the market has become relatively pessimistic about the company. This cautious sentiment is reflected in its (fairly low) P/E ratio of 5.51.

The image below shows how EPS has tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).

earnings-per-share-growth
earnings-per-share-growth

It's probably worth noting that the CEO is paid less than the median at similar sized companies. It's always worth keeping an eye on CEO pay, but a more important question is whether the company will grow earnings throughout the years. Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here..

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. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. In the case of Nelnet, it has a TSR of 96% for the last 5 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

Nelnet provided a TSR of 27% over the last twelve months. Unfortunately this falls short of the market return. On the bright side, that's still a gain, and it's actually better than the average return of 14% over half a decade This could indicate that the company is winning over new investors, as it pursues its strategy. 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. Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 3 warning signs with Nelnet (at least 2 which are a bit unpleasant) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

Of course Nelnet may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of growth stocks.

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

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. 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.

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