The total return for Southern Copper (NYSE:SCCO) investors has risen faster than earnings growth over the last three years

By buying an index fund, you can roughly match the market return with ease. But if you buy good businesses at attractive prices, your portfolio returns could exceed the average market return. For example, Southern Copper Corporation (NYSE:SCCO) shareholders have seen the share price rise 53% over three years, well in excess of the market return (25%, not including dividends). However, more recent returns haven’t been as impressive as that, with the stock returning just 3.6% in the last year , including dividends .

In light of the stock dropping 3.9% in the past week, we want to investigate the longer term story, and see if fundamentals have been the driver of the company’s positive three-year return.

View our latest analysis for Southern Copper

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 three years of share price growth, Southern Copper achieved compound earnings per share growth of 20% per year. The average annual share price increase of 15% is actually lower than the EPS growth. So one could reasonably conclude that the market has cooled on the stock.

You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).

earnings-per-share-growth

We’re pleased to report that the CEO is remunerated more modestly than most CEOs at similarly capitalized companies. But while CEO remuneration is always worth checking, the really important question is whether the company can grow earnings going forward. It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on Southern Copper’s earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What About Dividends?

When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. 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. It’s fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. As it happens, Southern Copper’s TSR for the last 3 years was 77%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. And there’s no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

It’s good to see that Southern Copper has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 3.6% in the last twelve months. And that does include the dividend. However, the TSR over five years, coming in at 11% per year, is even more impressive. Potential buyers might understandably feel they’ve missed the opportunity, but it’s always possible business is still firing on all cylinders. 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. Case in point: We’ve spotted 2 warning signs for Southern Copper you should be aware of, and 1 of them makes us a bit uncomfortable.

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 US exchanges.

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.

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By Matt Earle

Matthew Earle is the Founder of MiningFeeds. In 2005, Matt founded MiningNerds.com to provide data and information to the mining investment community. This site was merged with Highgrade Review to form MiningFeeds. Matt has a B.Sc. degree with a minor in geology from the University of Toronto.

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