Western Areas Limited's (ASX:WSA) Stock Has Seen Strong Momentum: Does That Call For Deeper Study Of Its Financial Prospects?

Most readers would already be aware that Western Areas' (ASX:WSA) stock increased significantly by 28% over the past three months. Given that stock prices are usually aligned with a company's financial performance in the long-term, we decided to study its financial indicators more closely to see if they had a hand to play in the recent price move. Specifically, we decided to study Western Areas' ROE in this article.

ROE or return on equity is a useful tool to assess how effectively a company can generate returns on the investment it received from its shareholders. Simply put, it is used to assess the profitability of a company in relation to its equity capital.

View our latest analysis for Western Areas

How To Calculate Return On Equity?

Return on equity can be calculated by using the formula:

Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Western Areas is:

6.1% = AU$32m ÷ AU$526m (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2020).

The 'return' is the yearly profit. One way to conceptualize this is that for each A$1 of shareholders' capital it has, the company made A$0.06 in profit.

What Is The Relationship Between ROE And Earnings Growth?

We have already established that ROE serves as an efficient profit-generating gauge for a company's future earnings. Based on how much of its profits the company chooses to reinvest or "retain", we are then able to evaluate a company's future ability to generate profits. Generally speaking, other things being equal, firms with a high return on equity and profit retention, have a higher growth rate than firms that don’t share these attributes.

Western Areas' Earnings Growth And 6.1% ROE

When you first look at it, Western Areas' ROE doesn't look that attractive. We then compared the company's ROE to the broader industry and were disappointed to see that the ROE is lower than the industry average of 13%. In spite of this, Western Areas was able to grow its net income considerably, at a rate of 34% in the last five years. So, there might be other aspects that are positively influencing the company's earnings growth. For instance, the company has a low payout ratio or is being managed efficiently.

We then performed a comparison between Western Areas' net income growth with the industry, which revealed that the company's growth is similar to the average industry growth of 32% in the same period.

past-earnings-growthpast-earnings-growth
past-earnings-growth

The basis for attaching value to a company is, to a great extent, tied to its earnings growth. The investor should try to establish if the expected growth or decline in earnings, whichever the case may be, is priced in. This then helps them determine if the stock is placed for a bright or bleak future. What is WSA worth today? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether WSA is currently mispriced by the market.

Is Western Areas Using Its Retained Earnings Effectively?

The three-year median payout ratio for Western Areas is 28%, which is moderately low. The company is retaining the remaining 72%. So it seems that Western Areas is reinvesting efficiently in a way that it sees impressive growth in its earnings (discussed above) and pays a dividend that's well covered.

Additionally, Western Areas has paid dividends over a period of at least ten years which means that the company is pretty serious about sharing its profits with shareholders. Based on the latest analysts' estimates, we found that the company's future payout ratio over the next three years is expected to hold steady at 27%. Therefore, the company's future ROE is also not expected to change by much with analysts predicting an ROE of 5.4%.

Conclusion

On the whole, we do feel that Western Areas has some positive attributes. Even in spite of the low rate of return, the company has posted impressive earnings growth as a result of reinvesting heavily into its business. Having said that, the company's earnings growth is expected to slow down, as forecasted in the current analyst estimates. To know more about the latest analysts predictions for the company, check out this visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.

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.

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

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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