While it may not be enough for some shareholders, we think it is good to see the Consolidated Operations Group Limited (ASX:COG) share price up 18% in a single quarter. But don't envy holders -- looking back over 5 years the returns have been really bad. The share price has failed to impress anyone , down a sizable 58% during that time. So is the recent increase sufficient to restore confidence in the stock? Not yet. We'd err towards caution given the long term under-performance.
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. By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.
During the five years over which the share price declined, Consolidated Operations Group's earnings per share (EPS) dropped by 25% each year. This fall in the EPS is worse than the 16% compound annual share price fall. So the market may previously have expected a drop, or else it expects the situation will improve.
The image below shows how EPS has tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).
Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here.
What about the Total Shareholder Return (TSR)?
We'd be remiss not to mention the difference between Consolidated Operations Group's total shareholder return (TSR) and its share price return. Arguably the TSR is a more complete return calculation because it accounts for the value of dividends (as if they were reinvested), along with the hypothetical value of any discounted capital that have been offered to shareholders. We note that Consolidated Operations Group's TSR, at -53% is higher than its share price return of -58%. When you consider it hasn't been paying a dividend, this data suggests shareholders have benefitted from a spin-off, or had the opportunity to acquire attractively priced shares in a discounted capital raising.
A Different Perspective
We regret to report that Consolidated Operations Group shareholders are down 44% for the year. Unfortunately, that's worse than the broader market decline of 8.0%. Having said that, it's inevitable that some stocks will be oversold in a falling market. The key is to keep your eyes on the fundamental developments. Regrettably, last year's performance caps off a bad run, with the shareholders facing a total loss of 8.9% per year over five years. We realise that Baron Rothschild 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 business. 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. Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 5 warning signs with Consolidated Operations Group (at least 2 which are significant) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
But note: Consolidated Operations Group may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with past earnings growth (and further growth forecast).
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on AU 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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