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Cochlear's (ASX:COH) stock up by 7.8% over the past three months. As most would know, long-term fundamentals have a strong correlation with market price movements, so we decided to look at the company's key financial indicators today to determine if they have any role to play in the recent price movement. In this article, we decided to focus on Cochlear's ROE.
Return on equity or ROE is an important factor to be considered by a shareholder because it tells them how effectively their capital is being reinvested. Simply put, it is used to assess the profitability of a company in relation to its equity capital.
How Is ROE Calculated?
The formula for ROE is:
Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity
So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Cochlear is:
19% = AU$327m ÷ AU$1.7b (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2021).
The 'return' is the yearly profit. That means that for every A$1 worth of shareholders' equity, the company generated A$0.19 in profit.
Why Is ROE Important For Earnings Growth?
So far, we've learned that ROE is a measure of a company's profitability. We now need to evaluate how much profit the company reinvests or "retains" for future growth which then gives us an idea about the growth potential of the company. Assuming everything else remains unchanged, the higher the ROE and profit retention, the higher the growth rate of a company compared to companies that don't necessarily bear these characteristics.
Cochlear's Earnings Growth And 19% ROE
To start with, Cochlear's ROE looks acceptable. On comparing with the average industry ROE of 13% the company's ROE looks pretty remarkable. For this reason, Cochlear's five year net income decline of 20% raises the question as to why the high ROE didn't translate into earnings growth. Therefore, there might be some other aspects that could explain this. For example, it could be that the company has a high payout ratio or the business has allocated capital poorly, for instance.
However, when we compared Cochlear's growth with the industry we found that while the company's earnings have been shrinking, the industry has seen an earnings growth of 17% in the same period. This is quite worrisome.
Earnings growth is a huge factor in stock valuation. It’s important for an investor to know whether the market has priced in the company's expected earnings growth (or decline). By doing so, they will have an idea if the stock is headed into clear blue waters or if swampy waters await. One good indicator of expected earnings growth is the P/E ratio which determines the price the market is willing to pay for a stock based on its earnings prospects. So, you may want to check if Cochlear is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to its industry.
Is Cochlear Efficiently Re-investing Its Profits?
With a high three-year median payout ratio of 69% (implying that 31% of the profits are retained), most of Cochlear's profits are being paid to shareholders, which explains the company's shrinking earnings. The business is only left with a small pool of capital to reinvest - A vicious cycle that doesn't benefit the company in the long-run.
Moreover, Cochlear has been paying dividends for at least ten years or more suggesting that management must have perceived that the shareholders prefer dividends over earnings growth. Our latest analyst data shows that the future payout ratio of the company over the next three years is expected to be approximately 67%. As a result, Cochlear's ROE is not expected to change by much either, which we inferred from the analyst estimate of 18% for future ROE.
Overall, we feel that Cochlear certainly does have some positive factors to consider. However, while the company does have a high ROE, its earnings growth number is quite disappointing. This can be blamed on the fact that it reinvests only a small portion of its profits and pays out the rest as dividends. With that said, we studied the latest analyst forecasts and found that while the company has shrunk its earnings in the past, analysts expect its earnings to grow in the future. Are these analysts expectations based on the broad expectations for the industry, or on the company's fundamentals? Click here to be taken to our analyst's forecasts page for the company.
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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