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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%. For example, the American Tower Corporation (REIT) (NYSE:AMT) share price has soared 141% in the last half decade. Most would be very happy with that. Also pleasing for shareholders was the 22% gain in the last three months. But this could be related to the strong market, which is up 13% in the last three months.
In his essay The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville Warren Buffett described how share prices do not always rationally reflect the value of a business. One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.
Over half a decade, American Tower (REIT) managed to grow its earnings per share at 15% a year. This EPS growth is slower than the share price growth of 19% per year, over the same period. So it's fair to assume the market has a higher opinion of the business than it did five years ago. That's not necessarily surprising considering the five-year track record of earnings growth. This optimism is visible in its fairly high P/E ratio of 70.14.
You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).
Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here..
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. As it happens, American Tower (REIT)'s TSR for the last 5 years was 164%, 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 American Tower (REIT) has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 40% in the last twelve months. And that does include the dividend. That gain is better than the annual TSR over five years, which is 21%. Therefore it seems like sentiment around the company has been positive lately. In the best case scenario, this may hint at some real business momentum, implying that now could be a great time to delve deeper. Before spending more time on American Tower (REIT) it might be wise to click here to see if insiders have been buying or selling shares.
But note: American Tower (REIT) may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with past earnings growth (and further growth forecast).
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.