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Can Universal Corporation's (NYSE:UVV) Weak Financials Pull The Plug On The Stock's Current Momentum On Its Share Price?

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Simply Wall St
·4 min read
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Most readers would already be aware that Universal's (NYSE:UVV) stock increased significantly by 21% over the past three months. However, in this article, we decided to focus on its weak fundamentals, as long-term financial performance of a business is what ultimatley dictates market outcomes. Particularly, we will be paying attention to Universal's ROE today.

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 other words, it is a profitability ratio which measures the rate of return on the capital provided by the company's shareholders.

View our latest analysis for Universal

How To Calculate Return On Equity?

ROE can be calculated by using the formula:

Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Universal is:

4.9% = US$63m ÷ US$1.3b (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2020).

The 'return' is the profit over the last twelve months. Another way to think of that is that for every $1 worth of equity, the company was able to earn $0.05 in profit.

What Has ROE Got To Do With Earnings Growth?

We have already established that ROE serves as an efficient profit-generating gauge for a company's future earnings. We now need to evaluate how much profit the company reinvests or "retains" for future growth which then gives us an idea about the growth potential of the company. Generally speaking, other things being equal, firms with a high return on equity and profit retention, have a higher growth rate than firms that don’t share these attributes.

Universal's Earnings Growth And 4.9% ROE

When you first look at it, Universal's ROE doesn't look that attractive. Next, when compared to the average industry ROE of 14%, the company's ROE leaves us feeling even less enthusiastic. Hence, the flat earnings seen by Universal over the past five years could probably be the result of it having a lower ROE.

Next, on comparing with the industry net income growth, we found that Universal's earnings seems to be shrinking at a similar rate as the industry which shrunk at a rate of a rate of 0.9% in the same period.

past-earnings-growth
past-earnings-growth

Earnings growth is an important metric to consider when valuing a stock. The investor should try to establish if the expected growth or decline in earnings, whichever the case may be, is priced in. This then helps them determine if the stock is placed for a bright or bleak future. Is Universal fairly valued compared to other companies? These 3 valuation measures might help you decide.

Is Universal Using Its Retained Earnings Effectively?

With a high three-year median payout ratio of 85% (implying that the company keeps only 15% of its income) of its business to reinvest into its business), most of Universal's profits are being paid to shareholders, which explains the absence of growth in earnings.

In addition, Universal has been paying dividends over a period of at least ten years suggesting that keeping up dividend payments is way more important to the management even if it comes at the cost of business growth.

Summary

Overall, we would be extremely cautious before making any decision on Universal. The company has seen a lack of earnings growth as a result of retaining very little profits and whatever little it does retain, is being reinvested at a very low rate of return. So far, we've only made a quick discussion around the company's earnings growth. So it may be worth checking this free detailed graph of Universal's past earnings, as well as revenue and cash flows to get a deeper insight into the company's performance.

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.

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