The worst result, after buying shares in a company (assuming no leverage), would be if you lose all the money you put in. But if you buy shares in a really great company, you can more than double your money. To wit, the The Ensign Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:ENSG) share price has flown 128% in the last three years. Most would be happy with that. Also pleasing for shareholders was the 35% gain in the last three months. But this could be related to the strong market, which is up 17% in the last three months.
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To quote Buffett, ‘Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace…’ One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.
Ensign Group was able to grow its EPS at 17% per year over three years, sending the share price higher. This EPS growth is lower than the 32% average annual increase in the share price. This indicates that the market is feeling more optimistic on the stock, after the last few years of progress. It is quite common to see investors become enamoured with a business, after a few years of solid progress.
The company’s earnings per share (over time) is depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).
We’re pleased to report that the CEO is remunerated more modestly than most CEOs at similarly capitalized companies. It’s always worth keeping an eye on CEO pay, but a more important question is whether the company will grow earnings throughout the years. Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here..
What About Dividends?
When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. In the case of Ensign Group, it has a TSR of 133% for the last 3 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. And there’s no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!
A Different Perspective
We’re pleased to report that Ensign Group shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 83% over one year. Of course, that includes the dividend. That gain is better than the annual TSR over five years, which is 34%. Therefore it seems like sentiment around the company has been positive lately. Someone with an optimistic perspective could view the recent improvement in TSR as indicating that the business itself is getting better with time. Most investors take the time to check the data on insider transactions. You can click here to see if insiders have been buying or selling.
We will like Ensign Group better if we see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. Thank you for reading.