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While some investors are already well versed in financial metrics (hat tip), this article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE) and why it is important. By way of learning-by-doing, we'll look at ROE to gain a better understanding of United Parcel Service, Inc. (NYSE:UPS).
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. In simpler terms, it measures the profitability of a company in relation to shareholder's equity.
How To Calculate Return On Equity?
Return on equity 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 United Parcel Service is:
72% = US$5.2b ÷ US$7.2b (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2021).
The 'return' refers to a company's earnings over the last year. So, this means that for every $1 of its shareholder's investments, the company generates a profit of $0.72.
Does United Parcel Service Have A Good Return On Equity?
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, United Parcel Service has a better ROE than the average (13%) in the Logistics industry.
That is a good sign. Bear in mind, a high ROE doesn't always mean superior financial performance. Aside from changes in net income, a high ROE can also be the outcome of high debt relative to equity, which indicates risk. You can see the 2 risks we have identified for United Parcel Service by visiting our risks dashboard for free on our platform here.
Why You Should Consider Debt When Looking At ROE
Most companies need money -- from somewhere -- to grow their 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 debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders' equity. That will make the ROE look better than if no debt was used.
United Parcel Service's Debt And Its 72% ROE
It appears that United Parcel Service makes extensive use of debt to improve its returns, because it has an alarmingly high debt to equity ratio of 3.27. Its ROE is clearly quite good, but it seems to be boosted by the significant use of debt by the company.
Return on equity is one way we can compare its business quality of different companies. In our books, the highest quality companies have high return on equity, despite low debt. 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. It is important to consider other factors, such as future profit growth -- and how much investment is required going forward. So you might want to take a peek at this data-rich interactive graph of forecasts for the company.
But note: United Parcel Service may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with high ROE and low debt.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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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