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Why Seneca Foods Corporation’s (NASDAQ:SENE.A) ROE Of 1.09% Does Not Tell The Whole Story

James Harlett

Seneca Foods Corporation (NASDAQ:SENE.A) delivered a less impressive 1.09% ROE over the past year, compared to the 11.99% return generated by its industry. SENE.A’s results could indicate a relatively inefficient operation to its peers, and while this may be the case, it is important to understand what ROE is made up of and how it should be interpreted. Knowing these components could change your view on SENE.A’s performance. I will take you through how metrics such as financial leverage impact ROE which may affect the overall sustainability of SENE.A’s returns. View our latest analysis for Seneca Foods

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. It essentially shows how much the company can generate in earnings given the amount of equity it has raised. In most cases, a higher ROE is preferred; however, there are many other factors we must consider prior to making any investment decisions.

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders Equity

Returns are usually compared to costs to measure the efficiency of capital. Seneca Foods’s cost of equity is 9.53%. This means Seneca Foods’s returns actually do not cover its own cost of equity, with a discrepancy of -8.44%. This isn’t sustainable as it implies, very simply, that the company pays more for its capital than what it generates in return. 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

NasdaqGS:SENE.A Last Perf Dec 15th 17

The first component is profit margin, which measures how much of sales is retained after the company pays for all its expenses. Asset turnover reveals how much revenue can be generated from Seneca Foods’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 Seneca Foods’s debt-to-equity level. At 102.95%, Seneca Foods’s debt-to-equity ratio appears balanced and indicates its ROE is generated from its capacity to increase profit without a large debt burden.

NasdaqGS:SENE.A Historical Debt Dec 15th 17

What this means for you:

Are you a shareholder? SENE.A exhibits a weak ROE against its peers, as well as insufficient levels to cover its own cost of equity this year. However, investors shouldn’t despair since ROE is not inflated by excessive debt, which means SENE.A still has room to improve shareholder returns by raising debt to fund new investments. If you’re looking for new ideas for high-returning stocks, you should take a look at our free platform to see the list of stocks with Return on Equity over 20%.

Are you a potential investor? If you are considering investing in SENE.A, looking at ROE on its own is not enough to make a well-informed decision. I recommend you do additional fundamental analysis by looking through our most recent infographic report on Seneca Foods to help you make a more informed investment decision.


To help readers see pass 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.