Many investors are still learning about the various metrics that can be useful when analysing a stock. This article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE). We'll use ROE to examine United Rentals, Inc. (NYSE:URI), by way of a worked example.
ROE or return on equity is a useful tool to assess how effectively a company can generate returns on the investment it received from its shareholders. In simpler terms, it measures the profitability of a company in relation to shareholder's equity.
How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?
The formula for return on equity is:
Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity
So, based on the above formula, the ROE for United Rentals is:
31% = US$2.3b ÷ US$7.4b (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2023).
The 'return' is the amount earned after tax over the last twelve months. So, this means that for every $1 of its shareholder's investments, the company generates a profit of $0.31.
Does United Rentals Have A Good ROE?
Arguably the easiest way to assess company's ROE is to compare it with the average in its industry. However, this method is only useful as a rough check, because companies do differ quite a bit within the same industry classification. As you can see in the graphic below, United Rentals has a higher ROE than the average (18%) in the Trade Distributors industry.
That's clearly a positive. With that said, a high ROE doesn't always indicate high profitability. Especially when a firm uses high levels of debt to finance its debt which may boost its ROE but the high leverage puts the company at risk. To know the 2 risks we have identified for United Rentals visit our risks dashboard for free.
Why You Should Consider Debt When Looking At ROE
Virtually all companies need money to invest in the business, to grow profits. That cash can come from retained earnings, issuing new shares (equity), or debt. In the first two cases, the ROE will capture this use of capital to grow. In the latter case, the debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders' equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.
Combining United Rentals' Debt And Its 31% Return On Equity
It's worth noting the high use of debt by United Rentals, leading to its debt to equity ratio of 1.59. While no doubt that its ROE is impressive, we would have been even more impressed had the company achieved this with lower debt. Investors should think carefully about how a company might perform if it was unable to borrow so easily, because credit markets do change over time.
Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. In our books, the highest quality companies have high return on equity, despite low debt. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.
Having said that, while ROE is a useful indicator of business quality, you'll have to look at a whole range of factors to determine the right price to buy a stock. Profit growth rates, versus the expectations reflected in the price of the stock, are a particularly important to consider. So I think it may be worth checking this free report on analyst forecasts for the company.
Of course United Rentals may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have high ROE and low debt.
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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.