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Should Retail Opportunity Investments Corp. (NASDAQ:ROIC) Focus On Improving This Fundamental Metric?

Simply Wall St

One of the best investments we can make is in our own knowledge and skill set. With that in mind, this article will work through how we can use Return On Equity (ROE) to better understand a business. To keep the lesson grounded in practicality, we'll use ROE to better understand Retail Opportunity Investments Corp. (NASDAQ:ROIC).

Return on equity or ROE is a key measure used to assess how efficiently a company's management is utilizing the company's capital. In short, ROE shows the profit each dollar generates with respect to its shareholder investments.

View our latest analysis for Retail Opportunity Investments

How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for ROE is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Retail Opportunity Investments is:

3.9% = US$49m ÷ US$1.3b (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2020).

The 'return' is the yearly profit. That means that for every $1 worth of shareholders' equity, the company generated $0.04 in profit.

Does Retail Opportunity Investments Have A Good Return On Equity?

One simple way to determine if a company has a good return on equity is to compare it to the average for its industry. However, this method is only useful as a rough check, because companies do differ quite a bit within the same industry classification. If you look at the image below, you can see Retail Opportunity Investments has a lower ROE than the average (5.0%) in the REITs industry classification.

roe
roe

Unfortunately, that's sub-optimal. Although, we think that a lower ROE could still mean that a company has the opportunity to better its returns with the use of leverage, provided its existing debt levels are low. When a company has low ROE but high debt levels, we would be cautious as the risk involved is too high. You can see the 3 risks we have identified for Retail Opportunity Investments by visiting our risks dashboard for free on our platform here.

Why You Should Consider Debt When Looking At ROE

Virtually all companies need money to invest in the business, to grow profits. That cash can come from retained earnings, issuing new shares (equity), or debt. In the case of the first and second options, the ROE will reflect this use of cash, for growth. In the latter case, the use of debt will improve the returns, but will not change the equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.

Combining Retail Opportunity Investments' Debt And Its 3.9% Return On Equity

It's worth noting the high use of debt by Retail Opportunity Investments, leading to its debt to equity ratio of 1.24. Its ROE is quite low, even with the use of significant debt; that's not a good result, in our opinion. Debt increases risk and reduces options for the company in the future, so you generally want to see some good returns from using it.

Conclusion

Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. A company that can achieve a high return on equity without debt could be considered a high quality business. If two companies have around the same level of debt to equity, and one has a higher ROE, I'd generally prefer the one with higher ROE.

But when a business is high quality, the market often bids it up to a price that reflects this. It is important to consider other factors, such as future profit growth -- and how much investment is required going forward. So you might want to check this FREE visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.

But note: Retail Opportunity Investments may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with high ROE and low debt.

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@simplywallst.com.