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Should You Be Excited About Service Corporation International’s (NYSE:SCI) 34% Return On Equity?

Alvin Rowe

Many investors are still learning about the various metrics that can be useful when analysing a stock. This article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE). To keep the lesson grounded in practicality, we’ll use ROE to better understand Service Corporation International (NYSE:SCI).

Service International has a ROE of 34%, based on the last twelve months. One way to conceptualize this, is that for each $1 of shareholders’ equity it has, the company made $0.34 in profit.

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How Do You Calculate ROE?

The formula for ROE is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders’ Equity

Or for Service International:

34% = 501.478 ÷ US$1.5b (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Most know that net profit is the total earnings after all expenses, but the concept of shareholders’ equity is a little more complicated. It is the capital paid in by shareholders, plus any retained earnings. The easiest way to calculate shareholders’ equity is to subtract the company’s total liabilities from the total assets.

What Does Return On Equity Mean?

ROE measures a company’s profitability against the profit it retains, and any outside investments. The ‘return’ is the yearly profit. The higher the ROE, the more profit the company is making. So, all else equal, investors should like a high ROE. That means ROE can be used to compare two businesses.

Does Service International Have A Good Return On Equity?

By comparing a company’s ROE with its industry average, we can get a quick measure of how good it is. Importantly, this is far from a perfect measure, because companies differ significantly within the same industry classification. As is clear from the image below, Service International has a better ROE than the average (13%) in the Consumer Services industry.

NYSE:SCI Last Perf January 15th 19

That’s what I like to see. We think a high ROE, alone, is usually enough to justify further research into a company. For example you might check if insiders are buying shares.

How Does Debt Impact Return On Equity?

Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. That cash can come from retained earnings, issuing new shares (equity), or debt. In the case of the first and second options, the ROE will reflect this use of cash, for growth. In the latter case, the debt used for growth will improve returns, but won’t affect the total equity. That will make the ROE look better than if no debt was used.

Combining Service International’s Debt And Its 34% Return On Equity

It’s worth noting the significant use of debt by Service International, leading to its debt to equity ratio of 2.43. I think the ROE is impressive, but it would have been assisted by the use of debt. Debt increases risk and reduces options for the company in the future, so you generally want to see some good returns from using it.

The Key Takeaway

Return on equity is one way we can compare the business quality of different companies. Companies that can achieve high returns on equity without too much debt are generally of good quality. If two companies have around the same level of debt to equity, and one has a higher ROE, I’d generally prefer the one with higher ROE.

But ROE is just one piece of a bigger puzzle, since high quality businesses often trade on high multiples of earnings. It is important to consider other factors, such as future profit growth — and how much investment is required going forward. So I think it may be worth checking this free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

If you would prefer check out another company — one with potentially superior financials — then do not miss this free list of interesting companies, that have HIGH return on equity and low debt.

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.