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Those who invested in Argo Investments (ASX:ARG) five years ago are up 62%

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Passive investing in index funds can generate returns that roughly match the overall market. But the truth is, you can make significant gains if you buy good quality businesses at the right price. For example, the Argo Investments Limited (ASX:ARG) share price is 35% higher than it was five years ago, which is more than the market average. It's also good to see that the stock is up 17% in a year.

Let's take a look at the underlying fundamentals over the longer term, and see if they've been consistent with shareholders returns.

Check out our latest analysis for Argo Investments

In his essay The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville Warren Buffett described how share prices do not always rationally reflect the value of a business. 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.

Argo Investments' earnings per share are down 5.7% per year, despite strong share price performance over five years.

This means it's unlikely the market is judging the company based on earnings growth. 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.

The revenue reduction of 1.9% per year is not a positive. It certainly surprises us that the share price is up, but perhaps a closer examination of the data will yield answers.

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

It's probably worth noting that the CEO is paid less than the median at similar sized companies. But while CEO remuneration is always worth checking, the really important question is whether the company can grow earnings going forward. Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here..

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). 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. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. As it happens, Argo Investments' TSR for the last 5 years was 62%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

It's nice to see that Argo Investments shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 20% over the last year. That's including the dividend. Since the one-year TSR is better than the five-year TSR (the latter coming in at 10% per year), it would seem that the stock's performance has improved in recent times. In the best case scenario, this may hint at some real business momentum, implying that now could be a great time to delve deeper. 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. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for Argo Investments you should be aware of, and 1 of them makes us a bit uncomfortable.

We will like Argo Investments better if we see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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