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Image Resources (ASX:IMA) shareholders have earned a 24% CAGR over the last five years

When you buy shares in a company, it's worth keeping in mind the possibility that it could fail, and you could lose your money. But when you pick a company that is really flourishing, you can make more than 100%. One great example is Image Resources NL (ASX:IMA) which saw its share price drive 145% higher over five years. Then again, the 10.0% share price decline hasn't been so fun for shareholders. We note that the broader market is down 0.5% in the last month, and this may have impacted Image Resources' share price.

So let's assess the underlying fundamentals over the last 5 years and see if they've moved in lock-step with shareholder returns.

View our latest analysis for Image Resources

To paraphrase Benjamin Graham: Over the short term the market is a voting machine, but over the long term it's a weighing machine. 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 last half decade, Image Resources became profitable. Sometimes, the start of profitability is a major inflection point that can signal fast earnings growth to come, which in turn justifies very strong share price gains. Given that the company made a profit three years ago, but not five years ago, it is worth looking at the share price returns over the last three years, too. Indeed, the Image Resources share price has gained 18% in three years. Meanwhile, EPS is up 67% per year. This EPS growth is higher than the 6% average annual increase in the share price over the same three years. Therefore, it seems the market has moderated its expectations for growth, somewhat.

You can see how EPS has changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).

earnings-per-share-growth
earnings-per-share-growth

We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Having said that, most people consider earnings and revenue growth trends to be a more meaningful guide to the business. This free interactive report on Image Resources' earnings, revenue and cash flow is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.

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, Image Resources' TSR for the last 5 years was 194%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

It's good to see that Image Resources has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 43% in the last twelve months. And that does include the dividend. That's better than the annualised return of 24% over half a decade, implying that the company is doing better recently. In the best case scenario, this may hint at some real business momentum, implying that now could be a great time to delve deeper. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. Take risks, for example - Image Resources has 3 warning signs we think you should be aware of.

Image Resources is not the only stock insiders are buying. So take a peek at this free list of growing companies with insider buying.

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

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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.