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A Closer Look At 3M Company's (NYSE:MMM) Impressive ROE

Many investors are still learning about the various metrics that can be useful when analysing a stock. This article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE). We'll use ROE to examine 3M Company (NYSE:MMM), by way of a worked example.

ROE or return on equity is a useful tool to assess how effectively a company can generate returns on the investment it received from its shareholders. In other words, it is a profitability ratio which measures the rate of return on the capital provided by the company's shareholders.

See our latest analysis for 3M

How To Calculate Return On Equity?

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 3M is:

36% = US$5.5b ÷ US$15b (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2023).

The 'return' is the income the business earned over the last year. So, this means that for every $1 of its shareholder's investments, the company generates a profit of $0.36.

Does 3M Have A Good ROE?

Arguably the easiest way to assess company's ROE is to compare it with the average in its industry. The limitation of this approach is that some companies are quite different from others, even within the same industry classification. As you can see in the graphic below, 3M has a higher ROE than the average (27%) in the Industrials industry.

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That's clearly a positive. Bear in mind, a high ROE doesn't always mean superior financial performance. Especially when a firm uses high levels of debt to finance its debt which may boost its ROE but the high leverage puts the company at risk. Our risks dashboardshould have the 3 risks we have identified for 3M.

How Does Debt Impact Return On Equity?

Virtually all companies need money to invest in the business, to grow profits. That cash can come from issuing shares, retained earnings, or debt. In the case of the first and second options, the ROE will reflect this use of cash, for growth. In the latter case, the debt used for growth will improve returns, but won't affect the total equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.

Combining 3M's Debt And Its 36% Return On Equity

It's worth noting the high use of debt by 3M, leading to its debt to equity ratio of 1.05. Its ROE is pretty impressive but, it would have probably been lower without the use of debt. Investors should think carefully about how a company might perform if it was unable to borrow so easily, because credit markets do change over time.

Summary

Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. 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.

But ROE is just one piece of a bigger puzzle, since high quality businesses often trade on high multiples of earnings. 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.

Of course 3M 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.

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