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Did Western Alliance Bancorporation (NYSE:WAL) Create Value For Shareholders?

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This analysis is intended to introduce important early concepts to people who are starting to invest and want to begin learning the link between company’s fundamentals and stock market performance.

Western Alliance Bancorporation (NYSE:WAL) delivered an ROE of 15.8% over the past 12 months, which is an impressive feat relative to its industry average of 8.2% during the same period. While the impressive ratio tells us that WAL has made significant profits from little equity capital, ROE doesn’t tell us if WAL has borrowed debt to make this happen. We’ll take a closer look today at factors like financial leverage to determine whether WAL’s ROE is actually sustainable.

View our latest analysis for Western Alliance Bancorporation

What you must know about ROE

Return on Equity (ROE) is a measure of Western Alliance Bancorporation’s profit relative to its shareholders’ equity. An ROE of 15.8% implies $0.16 returned on every $1 invested. While a higher ROE is preferred in most cases, there are several other factors we should consider before drawing any conclusions.

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders Equity

Returns are usually compared to costs to measure the efficiency of capital. Western Alliance Bancorporation’s cost of equity is 9.8%. This means Western Alliance Bancorporation returns enough to cover its own cost of equity, with a buffer of 6.0%. This sustainable practice implies that the company pays less for its capital than what it generates in return. ROE can be dissected into three distinct ratios: net profit margin, asset turnover, and financial leverage. This is called the Dupont Formula:

Dupont Formula

ROE = profit margin × asset turnover × financial leverage

ROE = (annual net profit ÷ sales) × (sales ÷ assets) × (assets ÷ shareholders’ equity)

ROE = annual net profit ÷ shareholders’ equity

NYSE:WAL Last Perf August 29th 18
NYSE:WAL Last Perf August 29th 18

The first component is profit margin, which measures how much of sales is retained after the company pays for all its expenses. Asset turnover shows how much revenue Western Alliance Bancorporation can generate with its current asset base. And finally, financial leverage is simply how much of assets are funded by equity, which exhibits how sustainable the company’s capital structure is. Since financial leverage can artificially inflate ROE, we need to look at how much debt Western Alliance Bancorporation currently has. The debt-to-equity ratio currently stands at a low 20.5%, meaning the above-average ROE is due to its capacity to produce profit growth without a huge debt burden.

NYSE:WAL Historical Debt August 29th 18
NYSE:WAL Historical Debt August 29th 18

Next Steps:

While ROE is a relatively simple calculation, it can be broken down into different ratios, each telling a different story about the strengths and weaknesses of a company. Western Alliance Bancorporation’s above-industry ROE is encouraging, and is also in excess of its cost of equity. ROE is not likely to be inflated by excessive debt funding, giving shareholders more conviction in the sustainability of high returns. Although ROE can be a useful metric, it is only a small part of diligent research.

For Western Alliance Bancorporation, I’ve compiled three key aspects you should further examine:

  1. Financial Health: Does it have a healthy balance sheet? Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis with six simple checks on key factors like leverage and risk.

  2. Valuation: What is Western Alliance Bancorporation worth today? Is the stock undervalued, even when its growth outlook is factored into its intrinsic value? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether Western Alliance Bancorporation is currently mispriced by the market.

  3. Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of Western Alliance Bancorporation? Explore our interactive list of stocks with large growth potential to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.