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Should You Be Impressed By California Water Service Group's (NYSE:CWT) ROE?

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One of the best investments we can make is in our own knowledge and skill set. With that in mind, this article will work through how we can use Return On Equity (ROE) to better understand a business. By way of learning-by-doing, we'll look at ROE to gain a better understanding of California Water Service Group (NYSE:CWT).

Return on equity or ROE is a key measure used to assess how efficiently a company's management is utilizing the company's capital. Put another way, it reveals the company's success at turning shareholder investments into profits.

See our latest analysis for California Water Service Group

How To Calculate Return On Equity?

Return on equity can be calculated by using the formula:

Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for California Water Service Group is:

15% = US$147m ÷ US$1.0b (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2021).

The 'return' refers to a company's earnings over the last year. Another way to think of that is that for every $1 worth of equity, the company was able to earn $0.15 in profit.

Does California Water Service Group Have A Good ROE?

One simple way to determine if a company has a good return on equity is to compare it to the average for its industry. The limitation of this approach is that some companies are quite different from others, even within the same industry classification. As is clear from the image below, California Water Service Group has a better ROE than the average (9.8%) in the Water Utilities industry.

roe
roe

That is a good sign. Bear in mind, a high ROE doesn't always mean superior financial performance. Especially when a firm uses high levels of debt to finance its debt which may boost its ROE but the high leverage puts the company at risk. Our risks dashboardshould have the 3 risks we have identified for California Water Service Group.

How Does Debt Impact ROE?

Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. The cash for investment can come from prior year profits (retained earnings), issuing new shares, or borrowing. In the first two cases, the ROE will capture this use of capital to grow. In the latter case, the debt used for growth will improve returns, but won't affect the total equity. That will make the ROE look better than if no debt was used.

California Water Service Group's Debt And Its 15% ROE

California Water Service Group does use a high amount of debt to increase returns. It has a debt to equity ratio of 1.21. While its ROE is pretty respectable, the amount of debt the company is carrying currently is not ideal. Debt does bring extra risk, so it's only really worthwhile when a company generates some decent returns from it.

Conclusion

Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. Companies that can achieve high returns on equity without too much debt are generally of good quality. All else being equal, a higher ROE is better.

Having said that, while ROE is a useful indicator of business quality, you'll have to look at a whole range of factors to determine the right price to buy a stock. The rate at which profits are likely to grow, relative to the expectations of profit growth reflected in the current price, must be considered, too. So you might want to check this FREE visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.

Of course California Water Service Group may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have high ROE and low debt.

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.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.