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Those who invested in Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM) three years ago are up 44%

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Low-cost index funds make it easy to achieve average market returns. But if you invest in individual stocks, some are likely to underperform. For example, the Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE:YUM) share price return of 36% over three years lags the market return in the same period. On the other hand, the more recent gain of 35% over a year is certainly pleasing.

So let's assess the underlying fundamentals over the last 3 years and see if they've moved in lock-step with shareholder returns.

View our latest analysis for Yum! Brands

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 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 three years of share price growth, Yum! Brands actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) drop 2.2% per year.

Given the share price resilience, we don't think the (declining) EPS numbers are a good measure of how the business is moving forward, right now. 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 modest 1.6% dividend yield is unlikely to be propping up the share price. We severely doubt anyone is particularly impressed with the modest 1.6% three-year revenue growth rate. So truth be told we can't see an easy explanation for the share price action, but perhaps you can...

You can see below how earnings and revenue have changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).

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

Yum! Brands is well known by investors, and plenty of clever analysts have tried to predict the future profit levels. If you are thinking of buying or selling Yum! Brands stock, you should check out this free report showing analyst consensus estimates for future profits.

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. As it happens, Yum! Brands' TSR for the last 3 years was 44%, 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 Yum! Brands shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 37% over the last year. And that does include the dividend. That gain is better than the annual TSR over five years, which is 16%. Therefore it seems like sentiment around the company has been positive lately. In the best case scenario, this may hint at some real business momentum, implying that now could be a great time to delve deeper. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. For example, we've discovered 3 warning signs for Yum! Brands (2 make us uncomfortable!) that you should be aware of before investing here.

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 US exchanges.

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.

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