What Is Return On Equity Used To Measure?

May 3, 2023
As long as a company's net revenue and equity are both positive figures, the return on equity (ROE) can be computed and stated as a percentage. Earnings given to ordinary stockholders flow out of net income, while earnings paid to favored shareholders and interest paid to debtors go into net income. A company's net income is the sum of its revenue, minus its operating costs, before taxation. The average equity of the owners is found by averaging the equity present at the beginning and end of the time. Each period's starting and ending dates must fall within the time frame in which net revenue is generated.

What is Return on Equity?

The revenue statement is a summary of a company's financial activities over a specified time period, usually a year. It shows how much money the company made or lost during that time period. The shareholders' equity of a business is derived from its balance sheet, which is a historical accounting of the company's assets and obligations.

Return on equity (ROE) is a measure that shows how profitably a business (more precisely, the management team) is using the money its stockholders have invested in it. In other terms, return on equity quantifies a company's income in connection to shareholders' equity. A greater return on equity indicates that the company's management is successful at maximizing profits and expanding the business with the resources at its disposal.

Using return on equity (ROE) is a common way to evaluate businesses and their performance in the marketplace. The method is useful for evaluating nearly any business with mainly physical rather than nebulous assets, but it shines when comparing firms within the same industry because it provides reliable indicators of which firms are running with higher financial effectiveness.

Calculation of Return on Equity (ROE)

Since the revenue statement and the balance sheet don't line up, it's standard procedure to compute return on equity using the average equity over a given time frame. Return on equity (ROE) is determined by dividing net revenue by the total quantity of stock held by shareholders. The formula is as follows:

Return on Equity (ROE) = Net Income / Equity Shares.

The term "net income" refers to the financial result after deducting all costs (such as interest and taxes) from net sales. Since it subtracts more costs than other revenue measurements like total income or operating income, net income is the most cautious measurement for a business to evaluate.

An average equity balance is appropriate for an analyst because net income is made over time, while stockholders' equity is a balance sheet account that typically reports on a single particular period. To do this, it is common practice to average the equity from the outset and the conclusion of the period.

The Relevance of Return on Equity

Whether a return on equity is excellent or poor depends on the standard for similar stocks in the market. Utilities, for example, tend to have a large number of assets and debt on the balance sheet and a small amount of net revenue. The utility industry typically has a low return on equity, around 10%. Normal ROE values of 18% or more could be achieved by a technology or retail company with lower balance sheet assets compared to net revenue.

Companies should strive for a return on equity (ROE) that is at least as high as, and preferably higher than, the norm for their industry. Return on equity rates that are relatively high or low will differ greatly from one business group or area to another. Still, investors often take the easy way out and judge a return on equity of 10% or less to be unacceptable, even if it is close to the long-term norm of the S&P 500.

Equity Performance and Return

Assuming that the percentage is about at or slightly above its peer group average, sustainable growth rates, and payout growth rates can be calculated using ROE. Despite some caveats, return on equity can serve as a foundation upon which to build projections of a stock's growth rate and payout growth rate in the future. These two numbers are related and can be used to evaluate competing businesses.

Multiplying the retention ratio by the return on equity gives an indication of the company's development rate in the future. The retention ratio measures the proportion of a company's total revenue that is kept or spent within the business.

Profit Margin and Long-Term Growth

Assume that two firms have the same return on equity and net revenue but varying retention rates. This implies that their rates of viable development, and sustainable growth rate(SGR), will vary. The SGR is the pace at which a business can expand without increasing its level of debt. SGR is determined by multiplying the return on equity by the retention rate. (or ROE times one minus the payout ratio)

The market may be undervaluing a company if its growth rate is lower than what can be sustained, or it may be fairly priced in all relevant risks. A development rate that is significantly above or below the viable rate requires extra research.

Problems of using Return on Equity

One might be wondering why a return on equity (ROE) that is just marginally greater than the norm of its comparable group is preferred. Don't equities with a large return on equity represent the best buy?

If a company's net revenue is very big in relation to its equity, then a very high return on equity can be indicative of the company's success. Risk is increased when the stock account is tiny in relation to the total revenue.

Profit Variability

One possible problem with a high return on equity is fluctuating earnings. Consider a business that has been losing money for a while now. A "retained loss" is an annual deficit that is carried forward from one year to the next in the equity section of the balance sheet. Shareholders' equity is diminished by these losses, which have a negative monetary worth.

Let's say the business experienced tremendous growth in the most recent year and is now profitable again. Due to the tiny number caused by the accumulated losses over the years, the reported ROE is artificially inflated.

Increased Debt

Excessive debt is a second potential reason for a large return on equity. Since equity is equivalent to assets minus debt, an increase in spending can lead to a rise in ROE. Equity can decline as debt increases for a business. It's not uncommon for businesses to use loan financing to repurchase their own shares of stock. While this may increase reported earnings per share (EPS), it has no bearing on underlying success or development.

Net Loss of Income

Finally, a high ROE can be fabricated by reporting a loss in net revenue and having a deficit in stockholders' equity. However, calculating ROE is inappropriate for a business with a total loss or negative stockholders' equity.

Excessive debt or erratic earnings are usually to blame when stockholders' equity is negative. Companies that are successful and have been using capital flow to repurchase their own shares are an exception to this guideline. As buybacks are deducted from shareholders' equity, this practice can ultimately lead some businesses to have negative equity.

A negative ROE or an exceptionally high ROE should always be viewed as a warning sign. It is possible, though unlikely, for a company to have a negative ROE percentage because of a cash flow-supported share repurchase scheme and outstanding management. In any event, comparing a business with a negative ROE to others with favorable ROE rates is meaningless.

Return on Equity Constraints

A high return on equity may not always be beneficial. An abnormally high return on equity (ROE) may be an indicator of a number of problems, including erratic earnings or an excessive debt load. Variations in return on equity (ROE) between periods that are statistically significant may also be an indication of inconsistency in bookkeeping practices.

Companies with negative ROEs (because of things like net losses or depleted stockholder wealth) cannot be analyzed or compared to those with positive ROEs. Since there is no actual yield, ROE is the wrong metric to use; rather, the loss on equity should be calculated.

Using return on equity (ROE) to evaluate businesses in various sectors is difficult. Because of differences in running profits and funding arrangements, ROE also shifts from industry to industry. Furthermore, bigger, more efficient businesses may not be directly equivalent to smaller, less experienced businesses.

The Difference Between ROE and ROI

Return on equity (ROE) considers a company's profitability in relation to its owners' equity, but return on invested capital (ROIC) goes a step further.

The return on invested capital (ROIC) measures the profitability of a business relative to its total capitalization (shareholder stock plus debt) after the payment of payments. Return on equity (ROE) measures a company's profitability in relation to its owners' equity, while return on invested capital (ROIC) attempts to do the same for a company's total capital stock.

Return on Equity and DuPont Analysis

Although the return on equity can be calculated simply by splitting net revenue by owners' equity, it can be further decomposed into its constituent parts using a method called DuPont decomposition. The American chemical company DuPont developed this method in the 1920s to determine what variables were most responsible for a company's return on equity. The DuPont analysis version steps involve the following:

ROE=NPM × Asset Turnover × Equity Multiplier


NPM = Net profit margin, the measure of operating efficiency

Asset Turnover = measure of asset use efficiency

Equity Multiplier = measure of financial leverage

What Does a Healthy Return on Equity Look Like?

A company's sector and its rivals will determine what a "good" ROE looks like, as is the case with most other success measures. Long-term returns on equity (ROE) for the top ten S&P 500 firms have averaged around 18.6%, but this number can be much higher or much lower depending on the industry. When all other factors are held constant, a sector with high levels of competition and high asset requirements to produce sales will typically have a lesser average ROE. However, the average ROE may be greater in markets where there are fewer competitors, and fewer resources are required to produce sales.

What Does Return on Equity Mean in Comparison to Return on Assets?

Similar to how return on equity (ROE) attempts to measure a company's profitability, return on assets (ROA) does the same. Return on Assets (ROA) is similar to Return on Equity (ROE), but it looks at the company's assets without considering its obligations. Companies whose activities necessitate substantial assets are more likely to have a poorer average yield in both instances.

Is There Any Consequence If ROE Is Negative?

When the return on equity (ROE) is negative, it indicates that the total revenue for the time was negative. (i.e., a loss). This means that stockholders are experiencing a negative return on their money. While a temporary drop in ROE is to be anticipated for startups and expanding businesses, a persistent negative ROE should raise red flags.

What factors contribute to the rising Return on Equity?

A higher net revenue will result in a higher return on equity. Decrease the worth of owners' equity to increase return on equity. Since equity is defined as the difference between assets and liabilities, raising liabilities (through actions such as increasing loan funding) can falsely increase ROE without definitely increasing revenue. This is especially true if the debt is used for share buybacks, which reduces the company's wealth.


The ratio of a company's profit to its owners' equity is a typical financial ratio known as return on equity. Although the return on equity (ROE) is useful in gauging a company's profitability, it does not provide a complete picture of a business without also taking into account factors such as its funding structure, sector, and success relative to the competition.