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With A Return On Equity Of 16%, Has Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd’s (NYSE:RCL) Management Done Well?

Many investors are still learning about the various metrics that can be useful when analysing a stock. This article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE). We’ll use ROE to examine Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (NYSE:RCL), by way of a worked example.

Royal Caribbean Cruises has a ROE of 16%, based on the last twelve months. One way to conceptualize this, is that for each $1 of shareholders’ equity it has, the company made $0.16 in profit.

See our latest analysis for Royal Caribbean Cruises

How Do I Calculate Return On Equity?

The formula for ROE is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders’ Equity

Or for Royal Caribbean Cruises:

16% = US$1.7b ÷ US$10.8b (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)

Most readers would understand what net profit is, but it’s worth explaining the concept of shareholders’ equity. It is the capital paid in by shareholders, plus any retained earnings. Shareholders’ equity can be calculated by subtracting the total liabilities of the company from the total assets of the company.

What Does ROE Signify?

Return on Equity measures a company’s profitability against the profit it has kept for the business (plus any capital injections). The ‘return’ is the amount earned after tax over the last twelve months. The higher the ROE, the more profit the company is making. So, all else equal, investors should like a high ROE. That means it can be interesting to compare the ROE of different companies.

Does Royal Caribbean Cruises 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. If you look at the image below, you can see Royal Caribbean Cruises has a similar ROE to the average in the hospitality industry classification (16%).

NYSE:RCL Last Perf October 25th 18

That’s not overly surprising. Generally it will take a while for decisions made by leadership to impact the ROE. So savvy investors often note how long the CEO has been in that position.

The Importance Of Debt To Return On Equity

Virtually all companies need money to invest in the business, to grow profits. The cash for investment can come from prior year profits (retained earnings), issuing new shares, or borrowing. In the first and second cases, the ROE will reflect this use of cash for investment in the business. 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.

Combining Royal Caribbean Cruises’s Debt And Its 16% Return On Equity

Royal Caribbean Cruises has a debt to equity ratio of 0.80, which is far from excessive. The fact that it achieved a fairly good ROE with only modest debt suggests the business might be worth putting on your watchlist. Judicious use of debt to improve returns can certainly be a good thing, although it does elevate risk slightly and reduce future optionality.

The Bottom Line On ROE

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 the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.

But when a business is high quality, the market often bids it up to a price that reflects this. 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 you might want to check this FREE visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies.

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.