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Those who invested in Kellogg (NYSE:K) three years ago are up 25%

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Investors can buy low cost index fund if they want to receive the average market return. But across the board there are plenty of stocks that underperform the market. That's what has happened with the Kellogg Company (NYSE:K) share price. It's up 12% over three years, but that is below the market return. Zooming in, the stock is up a respectable 12% in the last year.

So let's investigate and see if the longer term performance of the company has been in line with the underlying business' progress.

Check out our latest analysis for Kellogg

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.

Over the last three years, Kellogg failed to grow earnings per share, which fell 11% (annualized).

The strong decline in earnings per share suggests the market isn't using EPS to judge the company. So we'll need to take a look at some different metrics to try to understand why the share price remains solid.

Do you think that shareholders are buying for the 1.3% per annum revenue growth trend? We don't. So truth be told we can't see an easy explanation for the share price action, but perhaps you can...

The company's revenue and earnings (over time) are depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).

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

Kellogg is well known by investors, and plenty of clever analysts have tried to predict the future profit levels. So it makes a lot of sense to check out what analysts think Kellogg will earn in the future (free analyst consensus 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. We note that for Kellogg the TSR over the last 3 years was 25%, 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

Kellogg provided a TSR of 16% over the year (including dividends). That's fairly close to the broader market return. Most would be happy with a gain, and it helps that the year's return is actually better than the average return over five years, which was 1.9%. Even if the share price growth slows down from here, there's a good chance that this is business worth watching in the long term. 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 1 warning sign for Kellogg you should be aware of.

We will like Kellogg 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 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.