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Will Photronics Inc (NASDAQ:PLAB) Continue To Underperform Its Industry?

Renee Allred

This article is intended for those of you who are at the beginning of your investing journey and want to learn about Return on Equity using a real-life example.

Photronics Inc (NASDAQ:PLAB) delivered a less impressive 6.0% ROE over the past year, compared to the 12.3% return generated by its industry. An investor may attribute an inferior ROE to a relatively inefficient performance, and whilst this can often be the case, knowing the nuts and bolts of the ROE calculation may change that perspective and give you a deeper insight into PLAB’s past performance. Metrics such as financial leverage can impact the level of ROE which in turn can affect the sustainability of PLAB’s returns. Let me show you what I mean by this.

Check out our latest analysis for Photronics

Breaking down ROE — the mother of all ratios

Firstly, Return on Equity, or ROE, is simply the percentage of last years’ earning against the book value of shareholders’ equity. An ROE of 6.0% implies $0.060 returned on every $1 invested. In most cases, a higher ROE is preferred; however, there are many other factors we must consider prior to making any investment decisions.

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders Equity

ROE is measured against cost of equity in order to determine the efficiency of Photronics’s equity capital deployed. Its cost of equity is 11.8%. This means Photronics’s returns actually do not cover its own cost of equity, with a discrepancy of -5.8%. This isn’t sustainable as it implies, very simply, that the company pays more for its capital than what it generates in return. ROE can be dissected into three distinct ratios: net profit margin, asset turnover, and financial leverage. This is called the Dupont Formula:

Dupont Formula

ROE = profit margin × asset turnover × financial leverage

ROE = (annual net profit ÷ sales) × (sales ÷ assets) × (assets ÷ shareholders’ equity)

ROE = annual net profit ÷ shareholders’ equity

NasdaqGS:PLAB Last Perf September 25th 18

The first component is profit margin, which measures how much of sales is retained after the company pays for all its expenses. Asset turnover shows how much revenue Photronics can generate with its current asset base. And finally, financial leverage is simply how much of assets are funded by equity, which exhibits how sustainable the company’s capital structure is. Since financial leverage can artificially inflate ROE, we need to look at how much debt Photronics currently has. At 6.3%, Photronics’s debt-to-equity ratio appears low and indicates that Photronics still has room to increase leverage and grow its profits.

NasdaqGS:PLAB Historical Debt September 25th 18

Next Steps:

While ROE is a relatively simple calculation, it can be broken down into different ratios, each telling a different story about the strengths and weaknesses of a company. Photronics’s below-industry ROE is disappointing, furthermore, its returns were not even high enough to cover its own cost of equity. Although, its appropriate level of leverage means investors can be more confident in the sustainability of Photronics’s return with a possible increase should the company decide to increase its debt levels. ROE is a helpful signal, but it is definitely not sufficient on its own to make an investment decision.

For Photronics, I’ve compiled three key aspects you should look at:

  1. Financial Health: Does it have a healthy balance sheet? Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis with six simple checks on key factors like leverage and risk.
  2. Future Earnings: How does Photronics’s growth rate compare to its peers and the wider market? Dig deeper into the analyst consensus number for the upcoming years by interacting with our free analyst growth expectation chart.
  3. Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of Photronics? Explore our interactive list of stocks with large growth potential to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.