National Oilwell Varco, Inc. (NYSE:NOV) shareholders should be happy to see the share price up 14% in the last month. But that is little comfort to those holding over the last half decade, sitting on a big loss. The share price has failed to impress anyone , down a sizable 68% during that time. Some might say the recent bounce is to be expected after such a bad drop. However, in the best case scenario (far from fait accompli), this improved performance might be sustained.
National Oilwell Varco isn't a profitable company, so it is unlikely we'll see a strong correlation between its share price and its earnings per share (EPS). Arguably revenue is our next best option. Shareholders of unprofitable companies usually expect strong revenue growth. Some companies are willing to postpone profitability to grow revenue faster, but in that case one does expect good top-line growth.
In the last five years National Oilwell Varco saw its revenue shrink by 25% per year. That's definitely a weaker result than most pre-profit companies report. Arguably, the market has responded appropriately to this business performance by sending the share price down 20% (annualized) in the same time period. It's fair to say most investors don't like to invest in loss making companies with falling revenue. You'd want to research this company pretty thoroughly before buying, it looks a bit too risky for us.
The image below shows how earnings and revenue have tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).
National Oilwell Varco is well known by investors, and plenty of clever analysts have tried to predict the future profit levels. Given we have quite a good number of analyst forecasts, it might be well worth checking out this free chart depicting consensus estimates.
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. We note that for National Oilwell Varco the TSR over the last 5 years was -65%, 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
Investors in National Oilwell Varco had a tough year, with a total loss of 34% (including dividends) , against a market gain of about 11%. However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. Unfortunately, last year's performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 19% over the last half decade. We realise that Buffett has said investors should 'buy when there is blood on the streets', but we caution that investors should first be sure they are buying a high quality businesses. Before spending more time on National Oilwell Varco it might be wise to click here to see if insiders have been buying or selling shares.
We will like National Oilwell Varco 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.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.