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Blackmores (ASX:BKL) investors are sitting on a loss of 23% if they invested three years ago

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Many investors define successful investing as beating the market average over the long term. But its virtually certain that sometimes you will buy stocks that fall short of the market average returns. Unfortunately, that's been the case for longer term Blackmores Limited (ASX:BKL) shareholders, since the share price is down 26% in the last three years, falling well short of the market return of around 51%. More recently, the share price has dropped a further 8.5% in a month.

Since shareholders are down over the longer term, lets look at the underlying fundamentals over the that time and see if they've been consistent with returns.

View our latest analysis for Blackmores

In his essay The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville Warren Buffett described how share prices do not always rationally reflect the value of a business. One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.

Blackmores saw its EPS decline at a compound rate of 33% per year, over the last three years. This fall in the EPS is worse than the 10% compound annual share price fall. So the market may not be too worried about the EPS figure, at the moment -- or it may have previously priced some of the drop in. With a P/E ratio of 71.98, it's fair to say the market sees a brighter future for the business.

The image below shows how EPS has tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).

earnings-per-share-growth
earnings-per-share-growth

It's good to see that there was some significant insider buying in the last three months. That's a positive. On the other hand, we think the revenue and earnings trends are much more meaningful measures of the business. Dive deeper into the earnings by checking this interactive graph of Blackmores' earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). 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. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. As it happens, Blackmores' TSR for the last 3 years was -23%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

Blackmores provided a TSR of 9.6% over the last twelve months. But that return falls short of the market. On the bright side, that's still a gain, and it is certainly better than the yearly loss of about 1.5% endured over half a decade. So this might be a sign the business has turned its fortunes around. If you want to research this stock further, the data on insider buying is an obvious place to start. You can click here to see who has been buying shares - and the price they paid.

Blackmores is not the only stock that insiders are buying. For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on AU exchanges.

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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