Generally speaking the aim of active stock picking is to find companies that provide returns that are superior to the market average. And the truth is, you can make significant gains if you buy good quality businesses at the right price. For example, long term Unilever N.V. (AMS:UNA) shareholders have enjoyed a 67% share price rise over the last half decade, well in excess of the market return of around 27% (not including dividends). However, more recent returns haven’t been as impressive as that, with the stock returning just 16% in the last year, including dividends.
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While the efficient markets hypothesis continues to be taught by some, it has been proven that markets are over-reactive dynamic systems, and investors are not always rational. By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.
Over half a decade, Unilever managed to grow its earnings per share at 15% a year. The EPS growth is more impressive than the yearly share price gain of 11% over the same period. Therefore, it seems the market has become relatively pessimistic about the company.
You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).
We know that Unilever has improved its bottom line lately, but is it going to grow revenue? You could check out this free report showing analyst revenue forecasts.
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. We note that for Unilever the TSR over the last 5 years was 96%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
It’s good to see that Unilever has rewarded shareholders with a total shareholder return of 16% in the last twelve months. That’s including the dividend. That’s better than the annualised return of 14% over half a decade, implying that the company is doing better recently. In the best case scenario, this may hint at some real business momentum, implying that now could be a great time to delve deeper. Importantly, we haven’t analysed Unilever’s dividend history. This free visual report on its dividends is a must-read if you’re thinking of buying.
But note: Unilever may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with past earnings growth (and further growth forecast).
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on NL exchanges.
We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.