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The three-year shareholder returns and company earnings persist lower as Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) stock falls a further 5.1% in past week

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In order to justify the effort of selecting individual stocks, it's worth striving to beat the returns from a market index fund. But in any portfolio, there are likely to be some stocks that fall short of that benchmark. Unfortunately, that's been the case for longer term Woodside Petroleum Ltd (ASX:WPL) shareholders, since the share price is down 47% in the last three years, falling well short of the market return of around 34%. Unfortunately the share price momentum is still quite negative, with prices down 12% in thirty days. This could be related to the recent financial results - you can catch up on the most recent data by reading our company report.

Given the past week has been tough on shareholders, let's investigate the fundamentals and see what we can learn.

Check out our latest analysis for Woodside Petroleum

While markets are a powerful pricing mechanism, share prices reflect investor sentiment, not just underlying business performance. One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company's share price and its earnings per share (EPS).

Woodside Petroleum became profitable within the last five years. We would usually expect to see the share price rise as a result. So it's worth looking at other metrics to try to understand the share price move.

Arguably the revenue decline of 8.6% per year has people thinking Woodside Petroleum is shrinking. And that's not surprising, since it seems unlikely that EPS growth can continue for long in the absence of revenue growth.

The company's revenue and earnings (over time) are depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).

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

We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Having said that, most people consider earnings and revenue growth trends to be a more meaningful guide to the business. So we recommend checking out this free report showing consensus forecasts

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. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. We note that for Woodside Petroleum the TSR over the last 3 years was -41%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

While the broader market gained around 28% in the last year, Woodside Petroleum shareholders lost 0.8% (even including dividends). However, keep in mind that even the best stocks will sometimes underperform the market over a twelve month period. However, the loss over the last year isn't as bad as the 3% per annum loss investors have suffered over the last half decade. We would want clear information suggesting the company will grow, before taking the view that the share price will stabilize. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. Even so, be aware that Woodside Petroleum is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , you should know about...

There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. You probably do not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on AU exchanges.

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.

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

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