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 General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE:GD), by way of a worked example.
Return on Equity or ROE is a test of how effectively a company is growing its value and managing investors’ money. In short, ROE shows the profit each dollar generates with respect to its shareholder investments.
How To Calculate Return On Equity?
ROE can be calculated by using the formula:
Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity
So, based on the above formula, the ROE for General Dynamics is:
26% = US$3.4b ÷ US$13b (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2020).
The 'return' is the profit over the last twelve months. That means that for every $1 worth of shareholders' equity, the company generated $0.26 in profit.
Does General Dynamics Have A Good Return On Equity?
Arguably the easiest way to assess company's ROE is to compare it with the average in 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, General Dynamics has a better ROE than the average (13%) in the Aerospace & Defense industry.
That is a good sign. However, bear in mind that a high ROE doesn’t necessarily indicate efficient profit generation. Especially when a firm uses high levels of debt to finance its debt which may boost its ROE but the high leverage puts the company at risk.
The Importance Of Debt To Return On Equity
Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. That cash can come from issuing shares, retained earnings, or debt. In the first and second cases, the ROE will reflect this use of cash for investment in the business. In the latter case, the debt used for growth will improve returns, but won't affect the total equity. That will make the ROE look better than if no debt was used.
Combining General Dynamics' Debt And Its 26% Return On Equity
General Dynamics clearly uses a high amount of debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 1.36. There's no doubt the ROE is impressive, but it's worth keeping in mind that the metric could have been lower if the company were to reduce its debt. 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. A company that can achieve a high return on equity without debt could be considered a high quality business. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.
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. It is important to consider other factors, such as future profit growth -- and how much investment is required going forward. So I think it may be worth checking this free report on analyst forecasts for the company.
Of course General Dynamics 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.
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. 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.
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org.