The content of this article will benefit those of you who are starting to educate yourself about investing in the stock market and want to learn about Return on Equity using a real-life example.
With an ROE of 49.7%, Illinois Tool Works Inc (NYSE:ITW) outpaced its own industry which delivered a less exciting 12.7% over the past year. Superficially, this looks great since we know that ITW has generated big profits with little equity capital; however, ROE doesn’t tell us how much ITW has borrowed in debt. In this article, we’ll closely examine some factors like financial leverage to evaluate the sustainability of ITW’s ROE.
Peeling the layers of ROE – trisecting a company’s profitability
Firstly, Return on Equity, or ROE, is simply the percentage of last years’ earning against the book value of shareholders’ equity. For example, if the company invests $1 in the form of equity, it will generate $0.50 in earnings from this. 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
Returns are usually compared to costs to measure the efficiency of capital. Illinois Tool Works’s cost of equity is 10.8%. Since Illinois Tool Works’s return covers its cost in excess of 38.9%, its use of equity capital is efficient and likely to be sustainable. Simply put, Illinois Tool Works pays less for its capital than what it generates in return. ROE can be split up into three useful ratios: net profit margin, asset turnover, and financial leverage. This is called the 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
Basically, profit margin measures how much of revenue trickles down into earnings which illustrates how efficient the business is with its cost management. The other component, asset turnover, illustrates how much revenue Illinois Tool Works can make from its asset base. The most interesting ratio, and reflective of sustainability of its ROE, is financial leverage. Since ROE can be artificially increased through excessive borrowing, we should check Illinois Tool Works’s historic debt-to-equity ratio. At 196%, Illinois Tool Works’s debt-to-equity ratio appears relatively high and indicates the above-average ROE is generated by significant leverage levels.
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. Illinois Tool Works exhibits a strong ROE against its peers, as well as sufficient returns to cover its cost of equity. With debt capital in excess of equity, ROE may be inflated by the use of debt funding, raising questions over the sustainability of the company’s returns. ROE is a helpful signal, but it is definitely not sufficient on its own to make an investment decision.
For Illinois Tool Works, I’ve put together three pertinent factors you should further research:
- 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.
- Valuation: What is Illinois Tool Works worth today? Is the stock undervalued, even when its growth outlook is factored into its intrinsic value? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether Illinois Tool Works is currently mispriced by the market.
- Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of Illinois Tool Works? 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.