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With A Recent ROE Of 8.61%, Can First Merchants Corporation (NASDAQ:FRME) Catch Up To Its Industry?

Jenifer Prater

First Merchants Corporation (NASDAQ:FRME) delivered a less impressive 8.61% ROE over the past year, compared to the 8.88% return generated by its industry. Though FRME’s recent performance is underwhelming, it is useful to understand what ROE is made up of and how it should be interpreted. Knowing these components can change your views on FRME’s below-average returns. I will take you through how metrics such as financial leverage impact ROE which may affect the overall sustainability of FRME’s returns. Check out our latest analysis for First Merchants

Breaking down Return on Equity

Return on Equity (ROE) weighs First Merchants’s profit against the level of its shareholders’ equity. An ROE of 8.61% implies $0.09 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 assessed against cost of equity, which is measured using the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) – but let’s not dive into the details of that today. For now, let’s just look at the cost of equity number for First Merchants, which is 9.75%. Given a discrepancy of -1.15% between return and cost, this indicated that First Merchants may be paying more for its capital than what it’s generating 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:FRME Last Perf Jan 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 First Merchants can generate with its current asset base. The most interesting ratio, and reflective of sustainability of its ROE, is financial leverage. Since financial leverage can artificially inflate ROE, we need to look at how much debt First Merchants currently has. At 62.16%, First Merchants’s debt-to-equity ratio appears sensible and indicates its ROE is generated from its capacity to increase profit without a large debt burden.

NasdaqGS:FRME Historical Debt Jan 25th 18

Next Steps:

ROE is one of many ratios which meaningfully dissects financial statements, which illustrates the quality of a company. First Merchants exhibits a weak ROE against its peers, as well as insufficient levels to cover its own cost of equity this year. Although, its appropriate level of leverage means investors can be more confident in the sustainability of First Merchants’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 First Merchants, I’ve compiled three key aspects you should look at:


To help readers see pass 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.