One of the best investments we can make is in our own knowledge and skill set. With that in mind, this article will work through how we can use Return On Equity (ROE) to better understand a business. To keep the lesson grounded in practicality, we’ll use ROE to better understand American States Water Company (NYSE:AWR).
Return on equity or ROE is a key measure used to assess how efficiently a company’s management is utilizing the company’s capital. Put another way, it reveals the company’s success at turning shareholder investments into profits.
View our latest analysis for American States Water
How To Calculate Return On Equity?
The formula for ROE is:
Return on Equity=Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders’ Equity
So, based on the above formula, the ROE for American States Water is:
11%=US$78m ÷ US$710m (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2022).
The ‘return’ is the income the business earned over the last year. That means that for every $1 worth of shareholders’ equity, the company generated $0.11 in profit.
Does American States Water Have A Good ROE?
By comparing a company’s ROE with its industry average, we can get a quick measure of how good it is. The limitation of this approach is that some companies are quite different from others, even within the same industry classification. Pleasingly, American States Water has a superior ROE than the average (8.7%) in the Water Utilities industry.
That is a good sign. However, bear in mind that a high ROE doesn’t necessarily indicate efficient profit generation. Aside from changes in net income, a high ROE can also be the outcome of high debt relative to equity, which indicates risk. You can see the 2 risks we have identified for American States Water by visiting our risks dashboard for free on our platform here.
How Does Debt Impact Return On Equity?
Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. The cash for investment can come from prior year profits (retained earnings), issuing new shares, or borrowing. 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.
Combining American States Water’s Debt And Its 11% Return On Equity
It’s worth noting the high use of debt by American States Water, leading to its debt to equity ratio of 1.02. With a fairly low ROE, and significant use of debt, it’s hard to get excited about this business at the moment. Debt does bring extra risk, so it’s only really worthwhile when a company generates some decent returns from it.
Return on equity is one way we can compare its business quality of different companies. In our books, the highest quality companies have high return on equity, despite low debt. All else being equal, a higher ROE is better.
Having said that, while ROE is a useful indicator of business quality, you’ll have to look at a whole range of factors to determine the right price to buy a stock. 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 I think it may be worth checking this free report on analyst forecasts for the company.
If you would prefer check out another company — one with potentially superior financials — then do not miss this free list of interesting companies, that have HIGH return on equity and low debt.
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.
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