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The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc.'s (NYSE:HIG) Fundamentals Look Pretty Strong: Could The Market Be Wrong About The Stock?

Simply Wall St

Hartford Financial Services Group (NYSE:HIG) has had a rough three months with its share price down 36%. But if you pay close attention, you might find that its key financial indicators look quite decent, which could mean that the stock could potentially rise in the long-term given how markets usually reward more resilient long-term fundamentals. In this article, we decided to focus on Hartford Financial Services Group's ROE.

ROE or return on equity is a useful tool to assess how effectively a company can generate returns on the investment it received from its shareholders. In other words, it is a profitability ratio which measures the rate of return on the capital provided by the company's shareholders.

View our latest analysis for Hartford Financial Services Group

How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for return on equity is:

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

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Hartford Financial Services Group is:

11% = US$1.7b ÷ US$15b (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2020).

The 'return' is the profit over the last twelve months. One way to conceptualize this is that for each $1 of shareholders' capital it has, the company made $0.11 in profit.

What Is The Relationship Between ROE And Earnings Growth?

We have already established that ROE serves as an efficient profit-generating gauge for a company's future earnings. Based on how much of its profits the company chooses to reinvest or "retain", we are then able to evaluate a company's future ability to generate profits. Generally speaking, other things being equal, firms with a high return on equity and profit retention, have a higher growth rate than firms that don’t share these attributes.

Hartford Financial Services Group's Earnings Growth And 11% ROE

To start with, Hartford Financial Services Group's ROE looks acceptable. Especially when compared to the industry average of 9.0% the company's ROE looks pretty impressive. However, for some reason, the higher returns aren't reflected in Hartford Financial Services Group's meagre five year net income growth average of 3.7%. This is interesting as the high returns should mean that the company has the ability to generate high growth but for some reason, it hasn't been able to do so. Such a scenario is likely to take place when a company pays out a huge portion of its earnings as dividends, or is faced with competitive pressures.

As a next step, we compared Hartford Financial Services Group's net income growth with the industry and were disappointed to see that the company's growth is lower than the industry average growth of 7.8% in the same period.

NYSE:HIG Past Earnings Growth May 22nd 2020
NYSE:HIG Past Earnings Growth May 22nd 2020

Earnings growth is an important metric to consider when valuing a stock. What investors need to determine next is if the expected earnings growth, or the lack of it, is already built into the share price. By doing so, they will have an idea if the stock is headed into clear blue waters or if swampy waters await. Is Hartford Financial Services Group fairly valued compared to other companies? These 3 valuation measures might help you decide.

Is Hartford Financial Services Group Using Its Retained Earnings Effectively?

Hartford Financial Services Group has a low three-year median payout ratio of 24% (meaning, the company keeps the remaining 76% of profits) which means that the company is retaining more of its earnings. However, the low earnings growth number doesn't reflect this as high growth usually follows high profit retention. Therefore, there might be some other reasons to explain the lack in that respect. For example, the business could be in decline.

In addition, Hartford Financial Services Group has been paying dividends over a period of at least ten years suggesting that keeping up dividend payments is way more important to the management even if it comes at the cost of business growth. Based on the latest analysts' estimates, we found that the company's future payout ratio over the next three years is expected to hold steady at 26%. As a result, Hartford Financial Services Group's ROE is not expected to change by much either, which we inferred from the analyst estimate of 11% for future ROE.

Summary

On the whole, we do feel that Hartford Financial Services Group has some positive attributes. However, given the high ROE and high profit retention, we would expect the company to be delivering strong earnings growth, but that isn't the case here. This suggests that there might be some external threat to the business, that's hampering its growth. Having said that, looking at the current analyst estimates, we found that the company's earnings are expected to gain momentum. To know more about the latest analysts predictions for the company, check out this visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.

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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. Thank you for reading.