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With an ROE of 9.32%, First Financial Northwest Inc (NASDAQ:FFNW) outpaced its own industry which delivered a less exciting 8.83% over the past year. On the surface, this looks fantastic since we know that FFNW has made large profits from little equity capital; however, ROE doesn’t tell us if management have borrowed heavily to make this happen. We’ll take a closer look today at factors like financial leverage to determine whether FFNW’s ROE is actually sustainable.
What you must know about ROE
Return on Equity (ROE) is a measure of First Financial Northwest’s profit relative to its shareholders’ equity. It essentially shows how much the company can generate in earnings given the amount of equity it has raised. 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
ROE is assessed against cost of equity, which is measured using the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) – but let’s not dive into the details of that today. For now, let’s just look at the cost of equity number for First Financial Northwest, which is 9.82%. Since First Financial Northwest’s return does not cover its cost, with a difference of -0.51%, this means its current use of equity is not efficient and not sustainable. Very simply, First Financial Northwest pays more for its capital than what it generates in return. ROE can be broken down into three different ratios: net profit margin, asset turnover, and financial leverage. This is called the 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
Basically, profit margin measures how much of revenue trickles down into earnings which illustrates how efficient the business is with its cost management. Asset turnover reveals how much revenue can be generated from First Financial Northwest’s 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 First Financial Northwest currently has. At 146.83%, First Financial Northwest’s debt-to-equity ratio appears balanced and indicates the above-average ROE is generated from its capacity to increase profit without a large debt burden.
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. First Financial Northwest’s above-industry ROE is noteworthy, but it was not high enough to cover its own cost of equity. ROE is a helpful signal, but it is definitely not sufficient on its own to make an investment decision.
For First Financial Northwest, there are three fundamental factors you should further examine:
- 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.
- Valuation: What is First Financial Northwest 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 First Financial Northwest is currently mispriced by the market.
- Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of First Financial Northwest? 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 email@example.com.