It might seem bad, but the worst that can happen when you buy a stock (without leverage) is that its share price goes to zero. But if you buy shares in a really great company, you can more than double your money. For example, the Vulcan Materials Company (NYSE:VMC) share price has soared 113% in the last three years. Most would be happy with that. On top of that, the share price is up 16% in about a quarter.
Now it's worth having a look at the company's fundamentals too, because that will help us determine if the long term shareholder return has matched the performance of the underlying business.
To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' 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 three years of share price growth, Vulcan Materials actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) drop 3.4% per year.
Companies are not always focussed on EPS growth in the short term, and looking at how the share price has reacted, we don't think EPS is the most important metric for Vulcan Materials at the moment. Therefore, it makes sense to look into other metrics.
Languishing at just 0.7%, we doubt the dividend is doing much to prop up the share price. It may well be that Vulcan Materials revenue growth rate of 4.5% over three years has convinced shareholders to believe in a brighter future. If the company is being managed for the long term good, today's shareholders might be right to hold on.
The company's revenue and earnings (over time) are depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).
Vulcan Materials is well known by investors, and plenty of clever analysts have tried to predict the future profit levels. So we recommend checking out this free report showing consensus forecasts
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. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. As it happens, Vulcan Materials' TSR for the last 3 years was 119%, 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 nice to see that Vulcan Materials shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 45% over the last year. That's including the dividend. Since the one-year TSR is better than the five-year TSR (the latter coming in at 12% per year), it would seem that the stock's performance has improved in recent times. Someone with an optimistic perspective could view the recent improvement in TSR as indicating that the business itself is getting better with time. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. For instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for Vulcan Materials that you should be aware of.
But note: Vulcan Materials 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.
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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.