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Is Legal & General Group Plc's (LON:LGEN) 20% ROE Better Than Average?

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One of the best investments we can make is in our own knowledge and skill set. With that in mind, this article will work through how we can use Return On Equity (ROE) to better understand a business. By way of learning-by-doing, we'll look at ROE to gain a better understanding of Legal & General Group Plc (LON:LGEN).

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. In simpler terms, it measures the profitability of a company in relation to shareholder's equity.

See our latest analysis for Legal & General Group

How Is ROE Calculated?

The formula for ROE is:

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

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Legal & General Group is:

20% = UK£2.1b ÷ UK£10b (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2021).

The 'return' is the income the business earned over the last year. That means that for every £1 worth of shareholders' equity, the company generated £0.20 in profit.

Does Legal & General Group Have A Good ROE?

Arguably the easiest way to assess company's ROE is to compare it with the average in its industry. However, this method is only useful as a rough check, because companies do differ quite a bit within the same industry classification. As is clear from the image below, Legal & General Group has a better ROE than the average (13%) in the Insurance industry.

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That's what we like to see. However, bear in mind that a high ROE doesn’t necessarily indicate efficient profit generation. Especially when a firm uses high levels of debt to finance its debt which may boost its ROE but the high leverage puts the company at risk.

How Does Debt Impact Return On Equity?

Virtually all companies need money to invest in the business, to grow profits. That cash can come from retained earnings, issuing new shares (equity), or debt. In the first two cases, the ROE will capture this use of capital to grow. In the latter case, the use of debt will improve the returns, but will not change the equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.

Combining Legal & General Group's Debt And Its 20% Return On Equity

We think Legal & General Group uses a significant amount of debt to maximize its returns, as it has a significantly higher debt to equity ratio of 5.18. Its ROE is respectable, but it's not so impressive once you consider all of the debt.

Summary

Return on equity is a useful indicator of the ability of a business to generate profits and return them to shareholders. Companies that can achieve high returns on equity without too much debt are generally of good quality. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.

Having said that, while ROE is a useful indicator of business quality, you'll have to look at a whole range of factors to determine the right price to buy a stock. Profit growth rates, versus the expectations reflected in the price of the stock, are a particularly important to consider. So you might want to take a peek at this data-rich interactive graph of forecasts for the company.

If you would prefer check out another company -- one with potentially superior financials -- then do not miss this free list of interesting companies, that have HIGH return on equity and low debt.

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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