UK Markets close in 1 hr 34 mins

Even after rising 5.2% this past week, Elme Communities (NYSE:ELME) shareholders are still down 30% over the past five years

In order to justify the effort of selecting individual stocks, it's worth striving to beat the returns from a market index fund. But even the best stock picker will only win with some selections. At this point some shareholders may be questioning their investment in Elme Communities (NYSE:ELME), since the last five years saw the share price fall 43%. And we doubt long term believers are the only worried holders, since the stock price has declined 28% over the last twelve months. Shareholders have had an even rougher run lately, with the share price down 16% in the last 90 days. However, one could argue that the price has been influenced by the general market, which is down 8.5% in the same timeframe.

On a more encouraging note the company has added US$80m to its market cap in just the last 7 days, so let's see if we can determine what's driven the five-year loss for shareholders.

See our latest analysis for Elme Communities

Elme Communities isn't currently profitable, so most analysts would look to revenue growth to get an idea of how fast the underlying business is growing. Shareholders of unprofitable companies usually expect strong revenue growth. As you can imagine, fast revenue growth, when maintained, often leads to fast profit growth.

In the last five years Elme Communities saw its revenue shrink by 13% per year. That's definitely a weaker result than most pre-profit companies report. On the face of it we'd posit the share price fall of 7% compound, over five years is well justified by the fundamental deterioration. We doubt many shareholders are delighted with this share price performance. Risk averse investors probably wouldn't like this one much.

The graphic below depicts how earnings and revenue have changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).

earnings-and-revenue-growth
earnings-and-revenue-growth

You can see how its balance sheet has strengthened (or weakened) over time in this free interactive graphic.

What About Dividends?

It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. 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. In the case of Elme Communities, it has a TSR of -30% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

While the broader market lost about 22% in the twelve months, Elme Communities shareholders did even worse, losing 26% (even including dividends). Having said that, it's inevitable that some stocks will be oversold in a falling market. The key is to keep your eyes on the fundamental developments. Unfortunately, last year's performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 5% over the last half decade. Generally speaking long term share price weakness can be a bad sign, though contrarian investors might want to research the stock in hope of a turnaround. 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. To that end, you should learn about the 3 warning signs we've spotted with Elme Communities (including 2 which are a bit concerning) .

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 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.

Join A Paid User Research Session
You’ll receive a US$30 Amazon Gift card for 1 hour of your time while helping us build better investing tools for the individual investors like yourself. Sign up here