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Will Weakness in Lithia Motors, Inc.'s (NYSE:LAD) Stock Prove Temporary Given Strong Fundamentals?

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With its stock down 17% over the past three months, it is easy to disregard Lithia Motors (NYSE:LAD). However, stock prices are usually driven by a company’s financial performance over the long term, which in this case looks quite promising. Particularly, we will be paying attention to Lithia Motors' ROE today.

Return on equity or ROE is an important factor to be considered by a shareholder because it tells them how effectively their capital is being reinvested. Put another way, it reveals the company's success at turning shareholder investments into profits.

See our latest analysis for Lithia Motors

How Do You Calculate Return On Equity?

ROE 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 Lithia Motors is:

21% = US$958m ÷ US$4.6b (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2021).

The 'return' refers to a company's earnings over the last year. That means that for every $1 worth of shareholders' equity, the company generated $0.21 in profit.

Why Is ROE Important For Earnings Growth?

Thus far, we have learned that ROE measures how efficiently a company is generating its profits. Depending on how much of these profits the company reinvests or "retains", and how effectively it does so, we are then able to assess a company’s earnings growth potential. 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.

Lithia Motors' Earnings Growth And 21% ROE

To start with, Lithia Motors' ROE looks acceptable. Yet, the fact that the company's ROE is lower than the industry average of 29% does temper our expectations. That being the case, the significant five-year 29% net income growth reported by Lithia Motors comes as a pleasant surprise. We reckon that there could be other factors at play here. For example, it is possible that the company's management has made some good strategic decisions, or that the company has a low payout ratio. Bear in mind, the company does have a respectable ROE. It is just that the industry ROE is higher. So this certainly also provides some context to the high earnings growth seen by the company.

Next, on comparing with the industry net income growth, we found that Lithia Motors' growth is quite high when compared to the industry average growth of 15% in the same period, which is great to see.

past-earnings-growth
past-earnings-growth

The basis for attaching value to a company is, to a great extent, tied to its earnings growth. What investors need to determine next is if the expected earnings growth, or the lack of it, is already built into the share price. By doing so, they will have an idea if the stock is headed into clear blue waters or if swampy waters await. Is Lithia Motors fairly valued compared to other companies? These 3 valuation measures might help you decide.

Is Lithia Motors Using Its Retained Earnings Effectively?

Lithia Motors' three-year median payout ratio to shareholders is 10%, which is quite low. This implies that the company is retaining 90% of its profits. So it seems like the management is reinvesting profits heavily to grow its business and this reflects in its earnings growth number.

Additionally, Lithia Motors 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. Upon studying the latest analysts' consensus data, we found that the company's future payout ratio is expected to drop to 3.8% over the next three years. Despite the lower expected payout ratio, the company's ROE is not expected to change by much.

Conclusion

On the whole, we feel that Lithia Motors' performance has been quite good. Specifically, we like that it has been reinvesting a high portion of its profits at a moderate rate of return, resulting in earnings expansion. With that said, the latest industry analyst forecasts reveal that the company's earnings growth is expected to slow down. Are these analysts expectations based on the broad expectations for the industry, or on the company's fundamentals? Click here to be taken to our analyst's forecasts page for the company.

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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