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Natural Health Trends Corp. (NASDAQ:NHTC) Stock Is Going Strong But Fundamentals Look Uncertain: What Lies Ahead ?

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Natural Health Trends (NASDAQ:NHTC) has had a great run on the share market with its stock up by a significant 44% over the last month. However, we decided to pay attention to the company's fundamentals which don't appear to give a clear sign about the company's financial health. Particularly, we will be paying attention to Natural Health Trends' ROE today.

Return on equity or ROE is an important factor to be considered by a shareholder because it tells them how effectively their capital is being reinvested. Simply put, it is used to assess the profitability of a company in relation to its equity capital.

View our latest analysis for Natural Health Trends

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 Natural Health Trends is:

1.2% = US$843k ÷ US$68m (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2020).

The 'return' is the profit over the last twelve months. So, this means that for every $1 of its shareholder's investments, the company generates a profit of $0.01.

Why Is ROE Important For Earnings Growth?

Thus far, we have learned that ROE measures how efficiently a company is generating its profits. Based on how much of its profits the company chooses to reinvest or "retain", we are then able to evaluate a company's future ability to generate profits. Assuming everything else remains unchanged, the higher the ROE and profit retention, the higher the growth rate of a company compared to companies that don't necessarily bear these characteristics.

Natural Health Trends' Earnings Growth And 1.2% ROE

It is quite clear that Natural Health Trends' ROE is rather low. Even compared to the average industry ROE of 12%, the company's ROE is quite dismal. For this reason, Natural Health Trends' five year net income decline of 50% is not surprising given its lower ROE. However, there could also be other factors causing the earnings to decline. Such as - low earnings retention or poor allocation of capital.

However, when we compared Natural Health Trends' growth with the industry we found that while the company's earnings have been shrinking, the industry has seen an earnings growth of 4.7% in the same period. This is quite worrisome.

past-earnings-growth
past-earnings-growth

Earnings growth is a huge factor in stock valuation. The investor should try to establish if the expected growth or decline in earnings, whichever the case may be, is priced in. By doing so, they will have an idea if the stock is headed into clear blue waters or if swampy waters await. One good indicator of expected earnings growth is the P/E ratio which determines the price the market is willing to pay for a stock based on its earnings prospects. So, you may want to check if Natural Health Trends is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to its industry.

Is Natural Health Trends Using Its Retained Earnings Effectively?

Natural Health Trends' low three-year median payout ratio of 24% (implying that it retains the remaining 76% of its profits) comes as a surprise when you pair it with the shrinking earnings. This typically shouldn't be the case when a company is retaining most of its earnings. So there could be some other explanations in that regard. For example, the company's business may be deteriorating.

In addition, Natural Health Trends has been paying dividends over a period of seven years suggesting that keeping up dividend payments is preferred by the management even though earnings have been in decline.

Conclusion

On the whole, we feel that the performance shown by Natural Health Trends can be open to many interpretations. Even though it appears to be retaining most of its profits, given the low ROE, investors may not be benefitting from all that reinvestment after all. The low earnings growth suggests our theory correct. Wrapping up, we would proceed with caution with this company and one way of doing that would be to look at the risk profile of the business. Our risks dashboard would have the 5 risks we have identified for Natural Health Trends.

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. 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.