The simplest way to invest in stocks is to buy exchange traded funds. But if you pick the right individual stocks, you could make more than that. To wit, the Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD) share price is 36% higher than it was a year ago, much better than the market decline of around 16% (not including dividends) in the same period. So that should have shareholders smiling. Having said that, the longer term returns aren't so impressive, with stock gaining just 12% in three years.
Since the stock has added US$4.1b to its market cap in the past week alone, let's see if underlying performance has been driving long-term returns.
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 last year, Gilead Sciences actually saw its earnings per share drop 26%.
Given the share price gain, we doubt the market is measuring progress with EPS. Therefore, it seems likely that investors are putting more weight on metrics other than EPS, at the moment.
Revenue was pretty stable on last year, so deeper research might be needed to explain the share price rise.
You can see how earnings and revenue have changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).
Gilead Sciences is a well known stock, with plenty of analyst coverage, suggesting some visibility into future growth. Given we have quite a good number of analyst forecasts, it might be well worth checking out this free chart depicting consensus estimates.
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). 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. We note that for Gilead Sciences the TSR over the last 1 year was 41%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!
A Different Perspective
It's good to see that Gilead Sciences has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 41% in the last twelve months. Of course, that includes the dividend. Since the one-year TSR is better than the five-year TSR (the latter coming in at 6% per year), it would seem that the stock's performance has improved in recent times. Someone with an optimistic perspective could view the recent improvement in TSR as indicating that the business itself is getting better with time. 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. For instance, we've identified 3 warning signs for Gilead Sciences that you should be aware of.
We will like Gilead Sciences better if we see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on American exchanges.
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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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