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When you buy a stock there is always a possibility that it could drop 100%. But when you pick a company that is really flourishing, you can make more than 100%. For instance, the price of ALS Limited (ASX:ALQ) stock is up an impressive 186% over the last five years. We note the stock price is up 5.6% in the last seven days.
To paraphrase Benjamin Graham: Over the short term the market is a voting machine, but over the long term it's a weighing machine. One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.
During the five years of share price growth, ALS moved from a loss to profitability. That kind of transition can be an inflection point that justifies a strong share price gain, just as we have seen here. Since the company was unprofitable five years ago, but not three years ago, it's worth taking a look at the returns in the last three years, too. We can see that the ALS share price is up 46% in the last three years. In the same period, EPS is up 8.8% per year. This EPS growth is lower than the 13% average annual increase in the share price over three years. So it's fair to assume the market has a higher opinion of the business than it did three years ago.
The company's earnings per share (over time) is depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).
It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on ALS' earnings, revenue and cash flow.
What About Dividends?
When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. In the case of ALS, it has a TSR of 222% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.
A Different Perspective
We're pleased to report that ALS shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 8.6% over one year. That's including the dividend. However, that falls short of the 26% TSR per annum it has made for shareholders, each year, over five years. Potential buyers might understandably feel they've missed the opportunity, but it's always possible business is still firing on all cylinders. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. Take risks, for example - ALS has 3 warning signs we think you should be aware of.
Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of companies we expect will grow earnings.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on AU exchanges.
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.
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