Many investors define successful investing as beating the market average over the long term. But its virtually certain that sometimes you will buy stocks that fall short of the market average returns. We regret to report that long term Greif, Inc. (NYSE:GEF) shareholders have had that experience, with the share price dropping 43% in three years, versus a market return of about 13%. The falls have accelerated recently, with the share price down 27% in the last three months. But this could be related to the weak market, which is down 22% in the same period.
While the efficient markets hypothesis continues to be taught by some, it has been proven that markets are over-reactive dynamic systems, and investors are not always rational. 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.
Although the share price is down over three years, Greif actually managed to grow EPS by 23% per year in that time. This is quite a puzzle, and suggests there might be something temporarily buoying the share price. Or else the company was over-hyped in the past, and so its growth has disappointed.
It's worth taking a look at other metrics, because the EPS growth doesn't seem to match with the falling share price.
We note that the dividend seems healthy enough, so that probably doesn't explain the share price drop. It's good to see that Greif has increased its revenue over the last three years. If the company can keep growing revenue, there may be an opportunity for investors. You might have to dig deeper to understand the recent share price weakness.
The graphic below depicts how earnings and revenue have changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).
It's probably worth noting we've seen significant insider buying in the last quarter, which we consider a positive. That said, we think earnings and revenue growth trends are even more important factors to consider. So we recommend checking out this free report showing consensus forecasts
What About Dividends?
It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. 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. In the case of Greif, it has a TSR of -36% for the last 3 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
While the broader market lost about 11% in the twelve months, Greif shareholders did even worse, losing 16% (even including dividends) . Having said that, it's inevitable that some stocks will be oversold in a falling market. The key is to keep your eyes on the fundamental developments. Regrettably, last year's performance caps off a bad run, with the shareholders facing a total loss of 0.2% per year over five years. We realise that Baron Rothschild has said investors should "buy when there is blood on the streets", but we caution that investors should first be sure they are buying a high quality business. It's always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand Greif better, we need to consider many other factors. Even so, be aware that Greif is showing 3 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those can't be ignored...
There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. You probably do not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
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.
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