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Shareholders in Enterprise Bancorp (NASDAQ:EBTC) are in the red if they invested five years ago

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For many, the main point of investing is to generate higher returns than the overall market. But even the best stock picker will only win with some selections. So we wouldn't blame long term Enterprise Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ:EBTC) shareholders for doubting their decision to hold, with the stock down 13% over a half decade. In the last ninety days we've seen the share price slide 19%. However, one could argue that the price has been influenced by the general market, which is down 7.8% in the same timeframe.

It's worthwhile assessing if the company's economics have been moving in lockstep with these underwhelming shareholder returns, or if there is some disparity between the two. So let's do just that.

Check out our latest analysis for Enterprise Bancorp

There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect underlying business performance. One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company's share price and its earnings per share (EPS).

While the share price declined over five years, Enterprise Bancorp actually managed to increase EPS by an average of 15% per year. Given the share price reaction, one might suspect that EPS is not a good guide to the business performance during the period (perhaps due to a one-off loss or gain). Or possibly, the market was previously very optimistic, so the stock has disappointed, despite improving EPS.

Generally speaking we'd expect to see stronger share price increases on the back of sustained EPS growth, but other metrics may hold a clue to why the share price performance is relatively modest.

In contrast to the share price, revenue has actually increased by 8.6% a year in the five year period. A more detailed examination of the revenue and earnings may or may not explain why the share price languishes; there could be an opportunity.

You can see how earnings and revenue have changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).

earnings-and-revenue-growth
earnings-and-revenue-growth

We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Having said that, most people consider earnings and revenue growth trends to be a more meaningful guide to the business. Dive deeper into the earnings by checking this interactive graph of Enterprise Bancorp's earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What About Dividends?

It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. 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. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. We note that for Enterprise Bancorp the TSR over the last 5 years was -3.0%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

While it's certainly disappointing to see that Enterprise Bancorp shares lost 6.7% throughout the year, that wasn't as bad as the market loss of 16%. Given the total loss of 0.6% per year over five years, it seems returns have deteriorated in the last twelve months. While some investors do well specializing in buying companies that are struggling (but nonetheless undervalued), don't forget that Buffett said that 'turnarounds seldom turn'. 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. To that end, you should be aware of the 1 warning sign we've spotted with Enterprise Bancorp .

Enterprise Bancorp is not the only stock that insiders are buying. For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.