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Earnings growth of 1.4% over 5 years hasn't been enough to translate into positive returns for Westamerica Bancorporation (NASDAQ:WABC) shareholders

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·3 min read
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In order to justify the effort of selecting individual stocks, it's worth striving to beat the returns from a market index fund. But every investor is virtually certain to have both over-performing and under-performing stocks. So we wouldn't blame long term Westamerica Bancorporation (NASDAQ:WABC) shareholders for doubting their decision to hold, with the stock down 14% over a half decade.

With the stock having lost 3.4% in the past week, it's worth taking a look at business performance and seeing if there's any red flags.

View our latest analysis for Westamerica Bancorporation

In his essay The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville Warren Buffett described how share prices do not always rationally reflect the value of a business. One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company's share price and its earnings per share (EPS).

During the unfortunate half decade during which the share price slipped, Westamerica Bancorporation actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) improve by 7.4% per year. So it doesn't seem like EPS is a great guide to understanding how the market is valuing the stock. Or possibly, the market was previously very optimistic, so the stock has disappointed, despite improving EPS.

It's strange to see such muted share price performance despite sustained growth. Perhaps a clue lies in other metrics.

Revenue is actually up 3.1% over the time period. So it seems one might have to take closer look at the fundamentals to understand why the share price languishes. After all, there may be an opportunity.

The image below shows how earnings and revenue have tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).

earnings-and-revenue-growth
earnings-and-revenue-growth

We're pleased to report that the CEO is remunerated more modestly than most CEOs at similarly capitalized 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. So it makes a lot of sense to check out what analysts think Westamerica Bancorporation will earn in the future (free profit forecasts).

What About Dividends?

When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. As it happens, Westamerica Bancorporation's TSR for the last 5 years was -1.4%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

Westamerica Bancorporation shareholders are up 6.2% for the year (even including dividends). But that was short of the market average. On the bright side, that's still a gain, and it is certainly better than the yearly loss of about 0.3% endured over half a decade. It could well be that the business is stabilizing. It's always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand Westamerica Bancorporation better, we need to consider many other factors. Consider risks, for instance. Every company has them, and we've spotted 1 warning sign for Westamerica Bancorporation you should know about.

But note: Westamerica Bancorporation may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with past earnings growth (and further growth forecast).

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

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

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.