Norfolk Southern (NYSE:NSC) has had a rough three months with its share price down 22%. However, stock prices are usually driven by a company’s financial performance over the long term, which in this case looks quite promising. Particularly, we will be paying attention to Norfolk Southern's 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. In short, ROE shows the profit each dollar generates with respect to its shareholder investments.
How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?
The formula for return on equity is:
Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity
So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Norfolk Southern is:
18% = US$2.7b ÷ US$15b (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019).
The 'return' is the yearly profit. So, this means that for every $1 of its shareholder's investments, the company generates a profit of $0.18.
Why Is ROE Important For Earnings Growth?
We have already established that ROE serves as an efficient profit-generating gauge for a company's future earnings. 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. Generally speaking, other things being equal, firms with a high return on equity and profit retention, have a higher growth rate than firms that don’t share these attributes.
Norfolk Southern's Earnings Growth And 18% ROE
To begin with, Norfolk Southern seems to have a respectable ROE. Further, the company's ROE compares quite favorably to the industry average of 12%. This probably laid the ground for Norfolk Southern's moderate 18% net income growth seen over the past five years.
We then compared Norfolk Southern's net income growth with the industry and we're pleased to see that the company's growth figure is higher when compared with the industry which has a growth rate of 10% in the same period.
Earnings growth is an important metric to consider when valuing a stock. It’s important for an investor to know whether the market has priced in the company's expected earnings growth (or decline). This then helps them determine if the stock is placed for a bright or bleak future. What is NSC worth today? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether NSC is currently mispriced by the market.
Is Norfolk Southern Efficiently Re-investing Its Profits?
Norfolk Southern has a healthy combination of a moderate three-year median payout ratio of 35% (or a retention ratio of 65%) and a respectable amount of growth in earnings as we saw above, meaning that the company has been making efficient use of its profits.
Besides, Norfolk Southern has been paying dividends for at least ten years or more. This shows that the company is committed to sharing profits with its shareholders. Upon studying the latest analysts' consensus data, we found that the company is expected to keep paying out approximately 34% of its profits over the next three years. Accordingly, forecasts suggest that Norfolk Southern's future ROE will be 18% which is again, similar to the current ROE.
In total, we are pretty happy with Norfolk Southern's performance. Specifically, we like that the company is reinvesting a huge chunk of its profits at a high rate of return. This of course has caused the company to see substantial growth in its earnings. Having said that, the company's earnings growth is expected to slow down, as forecasted in the current analyst estimates. To know more about the latest analysts predictions for the company, check out this visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.
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