National CineMedia, Inc. (NASDAQ:NCMI) shareholders should be happy to see the share price up 12% in the last month. But that doesn't help the fact that the three year return is less impressive. After all, the share price is down 50% in the last three years, significantly under-performing the market.
In his essay The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville Warren Buffett described how share prices do not always rationally reflect the value of a business. One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company's share price and its earnings per share (EPS).
During the unfortunate three years of share price decline, National CineMedia actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) improve by 14% 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). Alternatively, growth expectations may have been unreasonable in the past.
It's worth taking a look at other metrics, because the EPS growth doesn't seem to match with the falling share price.
It's quite likely that the declining dividend has caused some investors to sell their shares, pushing the price lower in the process. It doesn't seem like the changes in revenue would have impacted the share price much, but a closer inspection of the data might reveal something.
The image below shows how earnings and revenue have tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).
It's probably worth noting that the CEO is paid less than the median at similar sized companies. But while CEO remuneration is always worth checking, the really important question is whether the company can grow earnings going forward. You can see what analysts are predicting for National CineMedia in this interactive graph of future profit estimates.
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. As it happens, National CineMedia's TSR for the last 3 years was -32%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
National CineMedia shareholders gained a total return of 30% during the year. Unfortunately this falls short of the market return. But at least that's still a gain! Over five years the TSR has been a reduction of 4.8% per year, over five years. It could well be that the business is stabilizing. Keeping this in mind, a solid next step might be to take a look at National CineMedia's dividend track record. This free interactive graph is a great place to start.
Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of companies we expect will grow earnings.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.
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