While some investors are already well versed in financial metrics (hat tip), this article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE) and why it is important. We’ll use ROE to examine National Presto Industries Inc (NYSE:NPK), by way of a worked example.
Over the last twelve months National Presto Industries has recorded a ROE of 13%. One way to conceptualize this, is that for each $1 of shareholders’ equity it has, the company made $0.13 in profit.
How Do You Calculate ROE?
The formula for ROE is:
Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders’ Equity
Or for National Presto Industries:
13% = US$46m ÷ US$347m (Based on the trailing twelve months to July 2018.)
Most readers would understand what net profit is, but it’s worth explaining the concept of shareholders’ equity. It is all the money paid into the company from shareholders, plus any earnings retained. Shareholders’ equity can be calculated by subtracting the total liabilities of the company from the total assets of the company.
What Does Return On Equity Mean?
ROE looks at the amount a company earns relative to the money it has kept within the business. The ‘return’ is the profit over the last twelve months. The higher the ROE, the more profit the company is making. So, all else being equal, a high ROE is better than a low one. That means it can be interesting to compare the ROE of different companies.
Does National Presto Industries 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. The limitation of this approach is that some companies are quite different from others, even within the same industry classification. The image below shows that National Presto Industries has an ROE that is roughly in line with the aerospace & defense industry average (15%).
That isn’t amazing, but it is respectable. ROE can change from year to year, based on decisions that have been made in the past. So it makes sense to check how long the board and CEO have been in place.
The Importance Of Debt To Return On Equity
Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. The cash for investment can come from prior year profits (retained earnings), issuing new shares, or borrowing. In the case of the first and second options, the ROE will reflect this use of cash, for growth. In the latter case, the debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders’ equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.
National Presto Industries’s Debt And Its 13% ROE
National Presto Industries is free of net debt, which is a positive for shareholders. Its ROE suggests it is a decent business; and the fact it is not leveraging returns indicates it is well worth watching. After all, when a company has a strong balance sheet, it can often find ways to invest in growth, even if it takes some time.
Return on equity is a useful indicator of the ability of a business to generate profits and return them to shareholders. A company that can achieve a high return on equity without debt could be considered a high quality business. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.
But ROE is just one piece of a bigger puzzle, since high quality businesses often trade on high multiples of earnings. The rate at which profits are likely to grow, relative to the expectations of profit growth reflected in the current price, must be considered, too. So I think it may be worth checking this free this detailed graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow .
But note: National Presto Industries 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.
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 email@example.com.