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The main point of investing for the long term is to make money. But more than that, you probably want to see it rise more than the market average. But Aflac Incorporated (NYSE:AFL) has fallen short of that second goal, with a share price rise of 51% over five years, which is below the market return. Zooming in, the stock is up just 2.3% in the last year.
With that in mind, it's worth seeing if the company's underlying fundamentals have been the driver of long term performance, or if there are some discrepancies.
To paraphrase Benjamin Graham: Over the short term the market is a voting machine, but over the long term it's a weighing machine. By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.
During five years of share price growth, Aflac achieved compound earnings per share (EPS) growth of 15% per year. The EPS growth is more impressive than the yearly share price gain of 9% over the same period. So one could conclude that the broader market has become more cautious towards the stock. This cautious sentiment is reflected in its (fairly low) P/E ratio of 9.32.
You can see how EPS has changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).
We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Having said that, most people consider earnings and revenue growth trends to be a more meaningful guide to the business. It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on Aflac's earnings, revenue and cash flow.
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. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. We note that for Aflac the TSR over the last 5 years was 70%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!
A Different Perspective
It's good to see that Aflac has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 4.9% in the last twelve months. That's including the dividend. However, that falls short of the 11% 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. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. For example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Aflac (1 can't be ignored!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
Aflac 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 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.