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What H.B. Fuller Company's (NYSE:FUL) ROE Can Tell Us

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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). We'll use ROE to examine H.B. Fuller Company (NYSE:FUL), by way of a worked example.

Return on equity or ROE is a key measure used to assess how efficiently a company's management is utilizing the company's capital. Simply put, it is used to assess the profitability of a company in relation to its equity capital.

See our latest analysis for H.B. Fuller

How To Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for ROE is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for H.B. Fuller is:

10.0% = US$144m ÷ US$1.4b (Based on the trailing twelve months to February 2021).

The 'return' refers to a company's earnings over the last year. Another way to think of that is that for every $1 worth of equity, the company was able to earn $0.10 in profit.

Does H.B. Fuller Have A Good ROE?

One simple way to determine if a company has a good return on equity is to compare it to the average for its industry. However, this method is only useful as a rough check, because companies do differ quite a bit within the same industry classification. You can see in the graphic below that H.B. Fuller has an ROE that is fairly close to the average for the Chemicals industry (12%).

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So while the ROE is not exceptional, at least its acceptable. Even if the ROE is respectable when compared to the industry, its worth checking if the firm's ROE is being aided by high debt levels. If so, this increases its exposure to financial risk. You can see the 2 risks we have identified for H.B. Fuller by visiting our risks dashboard for free on our platform here.

The Importance Of Debt To Return On Equity

Most companies need money -- from somewhere -- to grow their profits. That cash can come from retained earnings, issuing new shares (equity), or debt. In the first and second cases, the ROE will reflect this use of cash for investment in the business. In the latter case, the debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders' equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.

Combining H.B. Fuller's Debt And Its 10.0% Return On Equity

It's worth noting the high use of debt by H.B. Fuller, leading to its debt to equity ratio of 1.22. The combination of a rather low ROE and significant use of debt is not particularly appealing. Debt does bring extra risk, so it's only really worthwhile when a company generates some decent returns from it.

Summary

Return on equity is a useful indicator of the ability of a business to generate profits and return them to shareholders. 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.

Having said that, while ROE is a useful indicator of business quality, you'll have to look at a whole range of factors to determine the right price to buy a stock. The rate at which profits are likely to grow, relative to the expectations of profit growth reflected in the current price, must be considered, too. 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.

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. 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.

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