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Can Frontline plc (NYSE:FRO) Maintain Its Strong Returns?

While some investors are already well versed in financial metrics (hat tip), this article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE) and why it is important. We'll use ROE to examine Frontline plc (NYSE:FRO), by way of a worked example.

Return on equity or ROE is a key measure used to assess how efficiently a company's management is utilizing the company's capital. Simply put, it is used to assess the profitability of a company in relation to its equity capital.

View our latest analysis for Frontline

How Is ROE Calculated?

The formula for ROE is:

Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity

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So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Frontline is:

27% = US$638m ÷ US$2.4b (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2024).

The 'return' is the profit over the last twelve months. That means that for every $1 worth of shareholders' equity, the company generated $0.27 in profit.

Does Frontline Have A Good ROE?

By comparing a company's ROE with its industry average, we can get a quick measure of how good it is. However, this method is only useful as a rough check, because companies do differ quite a bit within the same industry classification. Pleasingly, Frontline has a superior ROE than the average (18%) in the Oil and Gas industry.

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That is a good sign. Bear in mind, a high ROE doesn't always mean superior financial performance. Aside from changes in net income, a high ROE can also be the outcome of high debt relative to equity, which indicates risk. You can see the 3 risks we have identified for Frontline by visiting our risks dashboard for free on our platform here.

How Does Debt Impact ROE?

Most companies need money -- from somewhere -- to grow their profits. That cash can come from issuing shares, retained earnings, or debt. In the first two cases, the ROE will capture this use of capital to grow. In the latter case, the debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders' equity. In this manner the use of debt will boost ROE, even though the core economics of the business stay the same.

Combining Frontline's Debt And Its 27% Return On Equity

Frontline clearly uses a high amount of debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 1.72. 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. Investors should think carefully about how a company might perform if it was unable to borrow so easily, because credit markets do change over time.

Summary

Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. A company that can achieve a high return on equity without debt could be considered a high quality business. All else being equal, a higher ROE is better.

But ROE is just one piece of a bigger puzzle, since high quality businesses often trade on high multiples of earnings. It is important to consider other factors, such as future profit growth -- and how much investment is required going forward. So you might want to take a peek at this data-rich interactive graph of forecasts for the company.

Of course Frontline 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.

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.