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Investors in a2 Milk (NZSE:ATM) have made a splendid return of 203% over the past five years

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The a2 Milk Company Limited (NZSE:ATM) shareholders have seen the share price descend 19% over the month. But that doesn't change the fact that shareholders have received really good returns over the last five years. It's fair to say most would be happy with 203% the gain in that time. To some, the recent pullback wouldn't be surprising after such a fast rise. Ultimately business performance will determine whether the stock price continues the positive long term trend. Unfortunately not all shareholders will have held it for the long term, so spare a thought for those caught in the 69% decline over the last twelve months.

So let's assess the underlying fundamentals over the last 5 years and see if they've moved in lock-step with shareholder returns.

View our latest analysis for a2 Milk

While the efficient markets hypothesis continues to be taught by some, it has been proven that markets are over-reactive dynamic systems, and investors are not always rational. 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.

Over half a decade, a2 Milk managed to grow its earnings per share at 20% a year. This EPS growth is lower than the 25% average annual increase in the share price. So it's fair to assume the market has a higher opinion of the business than it did five years ago. That's not necessarily surprising considering the five-year track record of earnings growth. This optimism is visible in its fairly high P/E ratio of 51.17.

The company's earnings per share (over time) is depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).

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

Dive deeper into a2 Milk's key metrics by checking this interactive graph of a2 Milk's earnings, revenue and cash flow.

A Different Perspective

Investors in a2 Milk had a tough year, with a total loss of 69%, against a market gain of about 14%. However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. On the bright side, long term shareholders have made money, with a gain of 25% per year over half a decade. It could be that the recent sell-off is an opportunity, so it may be worth checking the fundamental data for signs of a long term growth trend. 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. Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 2 warning signs with a2 Milk , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

If you would prefer to check out another company -- one with potentially superior financials -- then do not miss this free list of companies that have proven they can grow earnings.

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

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.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

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