For many investors, the main point of stock picking is to generate higher returns than the overall market. But its virtually certain that sometimes you will buy stocks that fall short of the market average returns. Unfortunately, that's been the case for longer term Philip Morris International Inc. (NYSE:PM) shareholders, since the share price is down 40% in the last three years, falling well short of the market return of around 38%.
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 unfortunate three years of share price decline, Philip Morris International actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) improve by 2.8% per year. This is quite a puzzle, and suggests there might be something temporarily buoying the share price. Or else the company was over-hyped in the past, and so its growth has disappointed.
It's pretty reasonable to suspect the market was previously to bullish on the stock, and has since moderated expectations. However, taking a look at other business metrics might shed a bit more light on the share price action.
We note that the dividend seems healthy enough, so that probably doesn't explain the share price drop. It's good to see that Philip Morris International has increased its revenue over the last three years. But it's not clear to us why the share price is down. It might be worth diving deeper into the fundamentals, lest an opportunity goes begging.
The graphic below depicts how earnings and revenue have changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).
Philip Morris International is well known by investors, and plenty of clever analysts have tried to predict the future profit levels. So it makes a lot of sense to check out what analysts think Philip Morris International will earn in the future (free analyst consensus estimates)
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. As it happens, Philip Morris International's TSR for the last 3 years was -30%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
While the broader market gained around 9.7% in the last year, Philip Morris International shareholders lost 5.5% (even including dividends) . Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. On the bright side, long term shareholders have made money, with a gain of 1.9% per year over half a decade. If the fundamental data continues to indicate long term sustainable growth, the current sell-off could be an opportunity worth considering. 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 Philip Morris International , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
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. 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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