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Some Imperial Brands (LON:IMB) Shareholders Are Down 49%

Simply Wall St

As an investor its worth striving to ensure your overall portfolio beats the market average. But the risk of stock picking is that you will likely buy under-performing companies. Unfortunately, that's been the case for longer term Imperial Brands PLC (LON:IMB) shareholders, since the share price is down 49% in the last three years, falling well short of the market return of around 23%. And more recent buyers are having a tough time too, with a drop of 29% in the last year. Furthermore, it's down 20% in about a quarter. That's not much fun for holders.

View our latest analysis for Imperial Brands

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.

During the unfortunate three years of share price decline, Imperial Brands actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) improve by 17% per year. Given the share price reaction, one might suspect that EPS is not a good guide to the business performance during the period (perhaps due to a one-off loss or gain). 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 Imperial Brands 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 company's revenue and earnings (over time) are depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).

LSE:IMB Income Statement, December 3rd 2019

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. This free report showing analyst forecasts should help you form a view on Imperial Brands

What About Dividends?

When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. 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 Imperial Brands, it has a TSR of -37% for the last 3 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

While the broader market gained around 9.7% in the last year, Imperial Brands shareholders lost 21% (even including dividends) . However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. Unfortunately, last year's performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 3.6% over the last half decade. We realise that Buffett 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 businesses. Investors who like to make money usually check up on insider purchases, such as the price paid, and total amount bought. You can find out about the insider purchases of Imperial Brands by clicking this link.

Imperial Brands is not the only stock that insiders are buying. For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.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.

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. Thank you for reading.