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Is Auto Trader Group plc's (LON:AUTO) Stock's Recent Performance Being Led By Its Attractive Financial Prospects?

·4-min read

Most readers would already be aware that Auto Trader Group's (LON:AUTO) stock increased significantly by 17% over the past three months. Since the market usually pay for a company’s long-term fundamentals, we decided to study the company’s key performance indicators to see if they could be influencing the market. Particularly, we will be paying attention to Auto Trader Group's ROE today.

Return on Equity or ROE is a test of how effectively a company is growing its value and managing investors’ money. In simpler terms, it measures the profitability of a company in relation to shareholder's equity.

Check out our latest analysis for Auto Trader Group

How To 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 Auto Trader Group is:

45% = UK£196m ÷ UK£436m (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2021).

The 'return' is the income the business earned over the last year. Another way to think of that is that for every £1 worth of equity, the company was able to earn £0.45 in profit.

Why Is ROE Important For Earnings Growth?

So far, we've learned that ROE is a measure of a company's profitability. We now need to evaluate how much profit the company reinvests or "retains" for future growth which then gives us an idea about the growth potential of the company. 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.

Auto Trader Group's Earnings Growth And 45% ROE

To begin with, Auto Trader Group has a pretty high ROE which is interesting. Secondly, even when compared to the industry average of 13% the company's ROE is quite impressive. However, we are curious as to how the high returns still resulted in a flat growth for Auto Trader Group in the past five years. We reckon that there could be some other factors at play here that's limiting the company's growth. Such as, the company pays out a huge portion of its earnings as dividends, or is faced with competitive pressures.

We then performed a comparison between Auto Trader Group's net income growth with the industry, which revealed that the company's growth is similar to the average industry growth of 1.8% in the same period.

past-earnings-growth
past-earnings-growth

Earnings growth is a huge factor in stock valuation. 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. One good indicator of expected earnings growth is the P/E ratio which determines the price the market is willing to pay for a stock based on its earnings prospects. So, you may want to check if Auto Trader Group is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to its industry.

Is Auto Trader Group Efficiently Re-investing Its Profits?

Despite having a normal three-year median payout ratio of 32% (implying that the company keeps 68% of its income) over the last three years, Auto Trader Group has seen a negligible amount of growth in earnings as we saw above. So there could be some other explanation in that regard. For instance, the company's business may be deteriorating.

In addition, Auto Trader Group has been paying dividends over a period of six years suggesting that keeping up dividend payments is way more important to the management even if it comes at the cost of business growth. Upon studying the latest analysts' consensus data, we found that the company is expected to keep paying out approximately 34% of its profits over the next three years. Therefore, the company's future ROE is also not expected to change by much with analysts predicting an ROE of 50%.

Conclusion

In total, we are pretty happy with Auto Trader Group's performance. Specifically, we like that the company is reinvesting a huge chunk of its profits at a high rate of return. This of course has caused the company to see a good amount of growth in its earnings. Having said that, looking at the current analyst estimates, we found that the company's earnings are expected to gain momentum. To know more about the company's future earnings growth forecasts take a look at this free report on analyst forecasts for the company to find out more.

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.

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