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Did Ramsay Health Care's (ASX:RHC) Share Price Deserve to Gain 43%?

Simply Wall St

Stock pickers are generally looking for stocks that will outperform the broader market. And while active stock picking involves risks (and requires diversification) it can also provide excess returns. To wit, the Ramsay Health Care share price has climbed 43% in five years, easily topping the market return of 6.3% (ignoring dividends). However, more recent returns haven't been as impressive as that, with the stock returning just 3.9% in the last year, including dividends.

See our latest analysis for Ramsay Health Care

There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect 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, Ramsay Health Care managed to grow its earnings per share at 8.0% a year. So the EPS growth rate is rather close to the annualized share price gain of 7.4% per year. Therefore one could conclude that sentiment towards the shares hasn't morphed very much. Rather, the share price has approximately tracked EPS growth.

You can see how EPS has changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).

ASX:RHC Past and Future Earnings, April 24th 2019

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. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. We note that for Ramsay Health Care the TSR over the last 5 years was 58%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

Ramsay Health Care shareholders are up 3.9% for the year (even including dividends). But that return falls short of the market. On the bright side, the longer term returns (running at about 9.5% a year, over half a decade) look better. It's quite possible the business continues to execute with prowess, even as the share price gains are slowing. Most investors take the time to check the data on insider transactions. You can click here to see if insiders have been buying or selling.

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 AU 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.