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 Beijing Chunlizhengda Medical Instruments Co., Ltd. (HKG:1858), by way of a worked example.
Beijing Chunlizhengda Medical Instruments has a ROE of 24%, based on the last twelve months. One way to conceptualize this, is that for each HK$1 of shareholders' equity it has, the company made HK$0.24 in profit.
How Do I Calculate ROE?
The formula for return on equity is:
Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity
Or for Beijing Chunlizhengda Medical Instruments:
24% = CN¥164m ÷ CN¥689m (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)
It's easy to understand the 'net profit' part of that equation, but 'shareholders' equity' requires further explanation. It is all the money paid into the company from shareholders, plus any earnings retained. You can calculate shareholders' equity by subtracting the company's total liabilities from its total assets.
What Does Return On Equity Signify?
Return on Equity measures a company's profitability against the profit it has kept for the business (plus any capital injections). The 'return' is the profit over the last twelve months. That means that the higher the ROE, the more profitable the company is. So, all else being equal, a high ROE is better than a low one. That means it can be interesting to compare the ROE of different companies.
Does Beijing Chunlizhengda Medical Instruments Have A Good ROE?
One simple way to determine if a company has a good return on equity is to compare it to the average for its industry. Importantly, this is far from a perfect measure, because companies differ significantly within the same industry classification. As is clear from the image below, Beijing Chunlizhengda Medical Instruments has a better ROE than the average (11%) in the Medical Equipment industry.
That is a good sign. I usually take a closer look when a company has a better ROE than industry peers. One data point to check is if insiders have bought shares recently.
How Does Debt Impact ROE?
Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. That cash can come from issuing shares, retained earnings, or debt. In the case of the first and second options, the ROE will reflect this use of cash, for growth. 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.
Beijing Chunlizhengda Medical Instruments's Debt And Its 24% ROE
Beijing Chunlizhengda Medical Instruments is free of net debt, which is a positive for shareholders. Its impressive ROE suggests it is a high quality business, but it's even better to have achieved that without leverage. At the end of the day, when a company has zero debt, it is in a better position to take future growth opportunities.
The Key Takeaway
Return on equity is one way we can compare the business quality of different companies. Companies that can achieve high returns on equity without too much debt are generally of good quality. All else being equal, a higher ROE is better.
But when a business is high quality, the market often bids it up to a price that reflects this. The rate at which profits are likely to grow, relative to the expectations of profit growth reflected in the current price, must be considered, too. So you might want to take a peek at this data-rich interactive graph of forecasts for the company.
Of course Beijing Chunlizhengda Medical Instruments 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.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.
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