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Why HeidelbergCement AG’s (FRA:HEI) ROE Of 7.4% Does Not Tell The Whole Story

Alex Johannesen

This analysis is intended to introduce important early concepts to people who are starting to invest and want to learn about Return on Equity using a real-life example.

HeidelbergCement AG (FRA:HEI) generated a below-average return on equity of 7.4% in the past 12 months, while its industry returned 9.4%. Though HEI’s recent performance is underwhelming, it is useful to understand what ROE is made up of and how it should be interpreted. Knowing these components can change your views on HEI’s below-average returns. Today I will look at how components such as financial leverage can influence ROE which may impact the sustainability of HEI’s returns.

See our latest analysis for HeidelbergCement

Breaking down ROE — the mother of all ratios

Firstly, Return on Equity, or ROE, is simply the percentage of last years’ earning against the book value of shareholders’ equity. An ROE of 7.4% implies €0.074 returned on every €1 invested. Generally speaking, a higher ROE is preferred; however, there are other factors we must also consider before making 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 HeidelbergCement, which is 12.3%. Given a discrepancy of -4.9% between return and cost, this indicated that HeidelbergCement may be paying more for its capital than what it’s generating in return. ROE can be split up into three useful 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:HEI Last Perf September 4th 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 HeidelbergCement’s asset base. Finally, financial leverage will be our main focus today. It shows how much of assets are funded by equity and can show how sustainable the company’s capital structure is. Since financial leverage can artificially inflate ROE, we need to look at how much debt HeidelbergCement currently has. Currently the debt-to-equity ratio stands at a reasonable 72.6%, which means its ROE is driven by its ability to grow its profit without a significant debt burden.

DB:HEI Historical Debt September 4th 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. HeidelbergCement’s below-industry ROE is disappointing, furthermore, its returns were not even high enough to cover its own cost of equity. Although, its appropriate level of leverage means investors can be more confident in the sustainability of HeidelbergCement’s return with a possible increase should the company decide to increase its debt levels. Although ROE can be a useful metric, it is only a small part of diligent research.

For HeidelbergCement, there are three key factors you should further examine:

  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 HeidelbergCement 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 HeidelbergCement is currently mispriced by the market.
  3. Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of HeidelbergCement? 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.