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Should We Be Cautious About The Greenbrier Companies, Inc.’s (NYSE:GBX) ROE Of 3.7%?


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 The Greenbrier Companies, Inc. (NYSE:GBX), by way of a worked example.

Return on Equity or ROE is a test of how effectively a company is growing its value and managing investors’ money. In short, ROE shows the profit each dollar generates with respect to its shareholder investments.

Check out the opportunities and risks within the US Machinery industry.

How Is ROE Calculated?

The formula for ROE is:

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

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for Greenbrier Companies is:

3.7% = US$54m ÷ US$1.5b (Based on the trailing twelve months to August 2022).

The ‘return’ refers to a company’s earnings over the last year. One way to conceptualize this is that for each $1 of shareholders’ capital it has, the company made $0.04 in profit.

Does Greenbrier Companies Have A Good Return On Equity?

One simple way to determine if a company has a good return on equity is to compare it to the average for its industry. However, this method is only useful as a rough check, because companies do differ quite a bit within the same industry classification. If you look at the image below, you can see Greenbrier Companies has a lower ROE than the average (13%) in the Machinery industry classification.

roe
NYSE:GBX Return on Equity November 19th 2022

Unfortunately, that’s sub-optimal. 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 company with high debt levels and low ROE is a combination we like to avoid given the risk involved. To know the 4 risks we have identified for Greenbrier Companies visit our risks dashboard for free.

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 Greenbrier Companies’ Debt And Its 3.7% Return On Equity

Greenbrier Companies clearly uses a high amount of debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 1.07. With a fairly low ROE, and significant use of debt, it’s hard to get excited about this business at the moment. 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.

Conclusion

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. All else being equal, a higher ROE is better.

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 check this FREE visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.

If you would prefer check out another company — one with potentially superior financials — then do not miss this free list of interesting companies, that have HIGH return on equity and low debt.

Valuation is complex, but we’re helping make it simple.

Find out whether Greenbrier Companies is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.

View the Free Analysis

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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