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Should We Be Cautious About Matthews International Corporation's (NASDAQ:MATW) ROE Of 6.5%?

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. We'll use ROE to examine Matthews International Corporation (NASDAQ:MATW), by way of a worked example.

Return on equity or ROE is a key measure used to assess how efficiently a company's management is utilizing the company's capital. Put another way, it reveals the company's success at turning shareholder investments into profits.

See our latest analysis for Matthews International

How Is ROE Calculated?

The formula for ROE is:

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Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Matthews International is:

6.5% = US$33m ÷ US$509m (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2024).

The 'return' is the amount earned after tax over the last twelve months. So, this means that for every $1 of its shareholder's investments, the company generates a profit of $0.06.

Does Matthews International Have A Good ROE?

By comparing a company's ROE with its industry average, we can get a quick measure of how good it is. Importantly, this is far from a perfect measure, because companies differ significantly within the same industry classification. As shown in the graphic below, Matthews International has a lower ROE than the average (12%) in the Commercial Services industry classification.

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That's not what we like to see. However, a low ROE is not always bad. If the company's debt levels are moderate to low, then there's still a chance that returns can be improved via the use of financial leverage. A high debt company having a low ROE is a different story altogether and a risky investment in our books. You can see the 3 risks we have identified for Matthews International by visiting our risks dashboard for free on our platform here.

How Does Debt Impact ROE?

Virtually all companies need money to invest in the business, to grow 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 use of debt will improve the returns, but will not change the equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.

Combining Matthews International's Debt And Its 6.5% Return On Equity

Matthews International clearly uses a high amount of debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 1.62. Its ROE is quite low, even with the use of significant debt; that's not a good result, in our opinion. Debt does bring extra risk, so it's only really worthwhile when a company generates some decent returns from it.

Conclusion

Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. A company that can achieve a high return on equity without debt could be considered a high quality business. If two companies have around the same level of debt to equity, and one has a higher ROE, I'd generally prefer the one with higher ROE.

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. The rate at which profits are likely to grow, relative to the expectations of profit growth reflected in the current price, must be considered, too. So I think it may be worth checking this free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Of course Matthews International may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have high ROE and low debt.

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.