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Investors Who Bought AltaGas (TSE:ALA) Shares Five Years Ago Are Now Down 58%

Simply Wall St

Ideally, your overall portfolio should beat the market average. But every investor is virtually certain to have both over-performing and under-performing stocks. So we wouldn't blame long term AltaGas Ltd. (TSE:ALA) shareholders for doubting their decision to hold, with the stock down 58% over a half decade. Unhappily, the share price slid 1.0% in the last week.

Check out our latest analysis for AltaGas

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 the five years over which the share price declined, AltaGas's earnings per share (EPS) dropped by 4.2% each year. Readers should note that the share price has fallen faster than the EPS, at a rate of 16% per year, over the period. This implies that the market is more cautious about the business these days.

The image below shows how EPS has tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).

TSX:ALA Past and Future Earnings, October 2nd 2019

We like that insiders have been buying shares in the last twelve months. Even so, future earnings will be far more important to whether current shareholders make money. It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on AltaGas's earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What About Dividends?

It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. In the case of AltaGas, it has a TSR of -42% for the last 5 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

AltaGas shareholders are down 2.1% for the year (even including dividends) , but the market itself is up 1.5%. Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. However, the loss over the last year isn't as bad as the 10% per annum loss investors have suffered over the last half decade. We'd need to see some sustained improvements in the key metrics before we could muster much enthusiasm. If you want to research this stock further, the data on insider buying is an obvious place to start. You can click here to see who has been buying shares - and the price they paid.

AltaGas 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 CA exchanges.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.