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Many investors define successful investing as beating the market average over the long term. But if you try your hand at stock picking, your risk returning less than the market. We regret to report that long term Highwoods Properties, Inc. (NYSE:HIW) shareholders have had that experience, with the share price dropping 26% in three years, versus a market return of about 37%. The good news is that the stock is up 1.3% in the last week.
To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.
Although the share price is down over three years, Highwoods Properties actually managed to grow EPS by 36% per year in that time. 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). Alternatively, growth expectations may have been unreasonable in the past.
Since the change in EPS doesn't seem to correlate with the change in share price, it's worth taking a look at other metrics.
Given the healthiness of the dividend payments, we doubt that they've concerned the market. Revenue has been pretty flat over three years, so that isn't an obvious reason shareholders would sell. So it might be worth looking at how revenue growth over time, in greater detail.
The image below shows how earnings and revenue have tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).
We like that insiders have been buying shares in the last twelve months. Even so, future earnings will be far more important to whether current shareholders make money. You can see what analysts are predicting for Highwoods Properties in this interactive graph of future profit estimates.
What About Dividends?
It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. The TSR is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. As it happens, Highwoods Properties' TSR for the last 3 years was -17%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.
A Different Perspective
Highwoods Properties shareholders are down 13% for the year (even including dividends), but the market itself is up 9.7%. Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. Longer term investors wouldn't be so upset, since they would have made 2.0%, each year, over five years. It could be that the recent sell-off is an opportunity, so it may be worth checking the fundamental data for signs of a long term growth trend. It's always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand Highwoods Properties better, we need to consider many other factors. Like risks, for instance. Every company has them, and we've spotted 4 warning signs for Highwoods Properties (of which 2 are a bit unpleasant!) you should know about.
Highwoods Properties is not the only stock insiders are buying. So take a peek at this free list of growing companies with insider buying.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US 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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