For many, the main point of investing in the stock market is to achieve spectacular returns. While not every stock performs well, when investors win, they can win big. For example, the Qantas Airways Limited (ASX:QAN) share price is up a whopping 328% in the last half decade, a handsome return for long term holders. This just goes to show the value creation that some businesses can achieve. The last week saw the share price soften some 1.9%.
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.
During the five years of share price growth, Qantas Airways moved from a loss to profitability. Sometimes, the start of profitability is a major inflection point that can signal fast earnings growth to come, which in turn justifies very strong share price gains. Given that the company made a profit three years ago, but not five years ago, it is worth looking at the share price returns over the last three years, too. Indeed, the Qantas Airways share price has gained 74% in three years. In the same period, EPS is up 1.7% per year. This EPS growth is lower than the 20% average annual increase in the share price over three years. So it's fair to assume the market has a higher opinion of the business than it did three years ago.
The graphic below depicts how EPS has changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).
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 Qantas Airways's 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). Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. In the case of Qantas Airways, it has a TSR of 406% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.
A Different Perspective
Qantas Airways shareholders are up 2.0% for the year (even including dividends). But that was short of the market average. On the bright side, the longer term returns (running at about 38% a year, over half a decade) look better. Maybe the share price is just taking a breather while the business executes on its growth strategy. 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.
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.
We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.