While Strategic Education, Inc. (NASDAQ:STRA) shareholders are probably generally happy, the stock hasn't had particularly good run recently, with the share price falling 27% in the last quarter. But that doesn't change the fact that the returns over the last three years have been very strong. The share price marched upwards over that time, and is now 188% higher than it was. To some, the recent share price pullback wouldn't be surprising after such a good run. The fundamental business performance will ultimately dictate whether the top is in, or if this is a stellar buying opportunity.
While markets are a powerful pricing mechanism, share prices reflect investor sentiment, not just underlying business performance. One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.
During the three years of share price growth, Strategic Education actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) drop 57% per year.
This means it's unlikely the market is judging the company based on earnings growth. Since the change in EPS doesn't seem to correlate with the change in share price, it's worth taking a look at other metrics.
The modest 1.5% dividend yield is unlikely to be propping up the share price. It could be that the revenue growth of 23% per year is viewed as evidence that Strategic Education is growing. If the company is being managed for the long term good, today's shareholders might be right to hold on.
You can see how earnings and revenue have changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).
Balance sheet strength is crucial. It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on how its financial position has changed over time.
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, Strategic Education's TSR for the last 3 years was 198%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
It's good to see that Strategic Education has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 2.1% in the last twelve months. And that does include the dividend. However, that falls short of the 18% TSR per annum it has made for shareholders, each year, over five years. The pessimistic view would be that be that the stock has its best days behind it, but on the other hand the price might simply be moderating while the business itself continues to execute. Before spending more time on Strategic Education it might be wise to click here to see if insiders have been buying or selling shares.
Of course Strategic Education may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of growth stocks.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.com. 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.