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Should Weakness in Acuity Brands, Inc.'s (NYSE:AYI) Stock Be Seen As A Sign That Market Will Correct The Share Price Given Decent Financials?

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With its stock down 13% over the past month, it is easy to disregard Acuity Brands (NYSE:AYI). However, stock prices are usually driven by a company’s financials over the long term, which in this case look pretty respectable. Specifically, we decided to study Acuity Brands' ROE in this article.

Return on Equity or ROE is a test of how effectively a company is growing its value and managing investors’ money. Simply put, it is used to assess the profitability of a company in relation to its equity capital.

See our latest analysis for Acuity Brands

How Is ROE Calculated?

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 Acuity Brands is:

14% = US$282m ÷ US$2.0b (Based on the trailing twelve months to May 2021).

The 'return' refers to a company's earnings over the last year. That means that for every $1 worth of shareholders' equity, the company generated $0.14 in profit.

Why Is ROE Important For 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. Assuming all else is equal, companies that have both a higher return on equity and higher profit retention are usually the ones that have a higher growth rate when compared to companies that don't have the same features.

Acuity Brands' Earnings Growth And 14% ROE

At first glance, Acuity Brands seems to have a decent ROE. Even when compared to the industry average of 13% the company's ROE looks quite decent. However, while Acuity Brands has a pretty respectable ROE, its five year net income decline rate was 2.4% . Based on this, we feel that there might be other reasons which haven't been discussed so far in this article that could be hampering the company's growth. These include low earnings retention or poor allocation of capital.

So, as a next step, we compared Acuity Brands' performance against the industry and were disappointed to discover that while the company has been shrinking its earnings, the industry has been growing its earnings at a rate of 8.9% in the same period.

past-earnings-growth
past-earnings-growth

Earnings growth is an important metric to consider when valuing a stock. It’s important for an investor to know whether the market has priced in the company's expected earnings growth (or decline). Doing so will help them establish if the stock's future looks promising or ominous. What is AYI worth today? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether AYI is currently mispriced by the market.

Is Acuity Brands Making Efficient Use Of Its Profits?

When we piece together Acuity Brands' low three-year median payout ratio of 6.7% (where it is retaining 93% of its profits), calculated for the last three-year period, we are puzzled by the lack of growth. The low payout should mean that the company is retaining most of its earnings and consequently, should see some growth. It looks like there might be some other reasons to explain the lack in that respect. For example, the business could be in decline.

Additionally, Acuity Brands has paid dividends over a period of at least ten years, which means that the company's management is determined to pay dividends even if it means little to no earnings growth. Our latest analyst data shows that the future payout ratio of the company is expected to drop to 4.7% over the next three years. As a result, the expected drop in Acuity Brands' payout ratio explains the anticipated rise in the company's future ROE to 17%, over the same period.

Summary

Overall, we feel that Acuity Brands certainly does have some positive factors to consider. However, given the high ROE and high profit retention, we would expect the company to be delivering strong earnings growth, but that isn't the case here. This suggests that there might be some external threat to the business, that's hampering its growth. With that said, we studied the latest analyst forecasts and found that while the company has shrunk its earnings in the past, analysts expect its earnings to grow in the future. To know more about the latest analysts predictions for the company, check out this visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.

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.