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Every investor on earth makes bad calls sometimes. But you have a problem if you face massive losses more than once in a while. So consider, for a moment, the misfortune of Dignity plc (LON:DTY) investors who have held the stock for three years as it declined a whopping 77%. That'd be enough to cause even the strongest minds some disquiet. And the ride hasn't got any smoother in recent times over the last year, with the price 22% lower in that time.
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 the three years that the share price fell, Dignity's earnings per share (EPS) dropped by 39% each year. So do you think it's a coincidence that the share price has dropped 38% per year, a very similar rate to the EPS? We don't. So it seems like sentiment towards the stock hasn't changed all that much over time. 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).
Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here.
What about the Total Shareholder Return (TSR)?
We've already covered Dignity's share price action, but we should also mention its total shareholder return (TSR). Arguably the TSR is a more complete return calculation because it accounts for the value of dividends (as if they were reinvested), along with the hypothetical value of any discounted capital that have been offered to shareholders. Dignity's TSR of was a loss of 75% for the 3 years. That wasn't as bad as its share price return, because it has paid dividends.
A Different Perspective
Investors in Dignity had a tough year, with a total loss of 20%, against a market gain of about 12%. However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. Unfortunately, last year's performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 20% over the last half decade. Generally speaking long term share price weakness can be a bad sign, though contrarian investors might want to research the stock in hope of a turnaround. 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. For instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for Dignity (1 shouldn't be ignored) that you should be aware of.
If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on GB exchanges.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.