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The five-year decline in earnings for Tabcorp Holdings ASX:TAH) isn't encouraging, but shareholders are still up 39% over that period

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When you buy and hold a stock for the long term, you definitely want it to provide a positive return. Better yet, you'd like to see the share price move up more than the market average. But Tabcorp Holdings Limited (ASX:TAH) has fallen short of that second goal, with a share price rise of 13% over five years, which is below the market return. Zooming in, the stock is up a respectable 11% in the last year.

In light of the stock dropping 5.7% in the past week, we want to investigate the longer term story, and see if fundamentals have been the driver of the company's positive five-year return.

Check out our latest analysis for Tabcorp Holdings

There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect underlying business performance. 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.

During the last half decade, Tabcorp Holdings became profitable. That would generally be considered a positive, so we'd expect the share price to be up.

The graphic below depicts how EPS has changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).

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

We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Having said that, most people consider earnings and revenue growth trends to be a more meaningful guide to the business. Dive deeper into the earnings by checking this interactive graph of Tabcorp Holdings' earnings, revenue and cash flow.

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 is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. As it happens, Tabcorp Holdings' TSR for the last 5 years was 39%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

It's nice to see that Tabcorp Holdings shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 14% over the last year. That's including the dividend. That gain is better than the annual TSR over five years, which is 7%. Therefore it seems like sentiment around the company has been positive lately. In the best case scenario, this may hint at some real business momentum, implying that now could be a great time to delve deeper. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for Tabcorp Holdings you should be aware of.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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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