The main aim of stock picking is to find the market-beating stocks. But every investor is virtually certain to have both over-performing and under-performing stocks. At this point some shareholders may be questioning their investment in Via Renewables, Inc. (NASDAQ:VIA), since the last five years saw the share price fall 63%. And it's not just long term holders hurting, because the stock is down 35% in the last year.
With that in mind, it's worth seeing if the company's underlying fundamentals have been the driver of long term performance, or if there are some discrepancies.
To paraphrase Benjamin Graham: Over the short term the market is a voting machine, but over the long term it's a weighing machine. 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).
While the share price declined over five years, Via Renewables actually managed to increase EPS by an average of 3.5% per year. Given the share price reaction, one might suspect that EPS is not a good guide to the business performance during the period (perhaps due to a one-off loss or gain). Alternatively, growth expectations may have been unreasonable in the past.
By glancing at these numbers, we'd posit that the the market had expectations of much higher growth, five years ago. Having said that, we might get a better idea of what's going on with the stock by looking at other metrics.
We note that the dividend has remained healthy, so that wouldn't really explain the share price drop. It could be that the revenue decline of 12% per year is viewed as evidence that Via Renewables is shrinking. With revenue weak, and increased payouts of cash, the market might be taking the view that its best days are behind it.
The company's revenue and earnings (over time) are depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).
We like that insiders have been buying shares in the last twelve months. Even so, future earnings will be far more important to whether current shareholders make money. It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on Via Renewables' earnings, revenue and cash flow.
What About Dividends?
It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. As it happens, Via Renewables' TSR for the last 5 years was -48%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.
A Different Perspective
While the broader market lost about 17% in the twelve months, Via Renewables shareholders did even worse, losing 30% (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 8% 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. Consider risks, for instance. Every company has them, and we've spotted 1 warning sign for Via Renewables you should know about.
Via Renewables is not the only stock insiders are buying. So take a peek at this free list of growing companies with insider buying.
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