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Why AUDI AG’s (FRA:NSU) ROE Of 13.2% Does Not Tell The Whole Story

Ricardo Landis

I am writing today to help inform people who are new to the stock market and want to start learning about core concepts of fundamental analysis on practical examples from today’s market.

AUDI AG (FRA:NSU) generated a below-average return on equity of 13.2% in the past 12 months, while its industry returned 13.8%. An investor may attribute an inferior ROE to a relatively inefficient performance, and whilst this can often be the case, knowing the nuts and bolts of the ROE calculation may change that perspective and give you a deeper insight into NSU’s past performance. I will take you through how metrics such as financial leverage impact ROE which may affect the overall sustainability of NSU’s returns.

See our latest analysis for AUDI

What you must know about ROE

Return on Equity (ROE) is a measure of AUDI’s profit relative to its shareholders’ equity. For example, if the company invests €1 in the form of equity, it will generate €0.13 in earnings from this. While a higher ROE is preferred in most cases, there are several other factors we should consider before drawing any conclusions.

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders Equity

ROE is assessed against cost of equity, which is measured using the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) – but let’s not dive into the details of that today. For now, let’s just look at the cost of equity number for AUDI, which is 8.1%. Some of AUDI’s peers may have a higher ROE but its cost of equity could exceed this return, leading to an unsustainable negative discrepancy i.e. the company spends more than it earns. This is not the case for AUDI which is reassuring. ROE can be broken down into three different ratios: net profit margin, asset turnover, and financial leverage. This is called the Dupont Formula:

Dupont Formula

ROE = profit margin × asset turnover × financial leverage

ROE = (annual net profit ÷ sales) × (sales ÷ assets) × (assets ÷ shareholders’ equity)

ROE = annual net profit ÷ shareholders’ equity

DB:NSU Last Perf September 6th 18

Basically, profit margin measures how much of revenue trickles down into earnings which illustrates how efficient the business is with its cost management. Asset turnover reveals how much revenue can be generated from AUDI’s asset base. The most interesting ratio, and reflective of sustainability of its ROE, is financial leverage. Since ROE can be inflated by excessive debt, we need to examine AUDI’s debt-to-equity level. The debt-to-equity ratio currently stands at a low 2.3%, meaning AUDI still has headroom to borrow debt to increase profits.

DB:NSU Historical Debt September 6th 18

Next Steps:

While ROE is a relatively simple calculation, it can be broken down into different ratios, each telling a different story about the strengths and weaknesses of a company. While AUDI exhibits a weak ROE against its peers, its returns are sufficient enough to cover its cost of equity. Also, ROE is not likely to be inflated by excessive debt funding, giving shareholders more conviction in the sustainability of returns, which has headroom to increase further. Although ROE can be a useful metric, it is only a small part of diligent research.

For AUDI, I’ve put together three essential aspects you should look at:

  1. Financial Health: Does it have a healthy balance sheet? Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis with six simple checks on key factors like leverage and risk.
  2. Valuation: What is AUDI worth today? Is the stock undervalued, even when its growth outlook is factored into its intrinsic value? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether AUDI is currently mispriced by the market.
  3. Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of AUDI? Explore our interactive list of stocks with large growth potential to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.