How Does Northeast Utilities Really Juice Its Return on Equity?
As investors, we need to understand how our companies truly make their money. A neat trick developed for just that purpose -- the DuPont Formula -- can help us do so.
The DuPont Formula can give you a better grasp on exactly where your company is producing its profit, and where it might have a competitive advantage. Named after the company where it was pioneered, the formula breaks down return on equity into three components:
Return on equity = net margin x asset turnover x leverage ratio
What makes each of these components important?
- High net margins show that a company can get customers to pay more for its products. Luxury-goods companies provide a great example here.
- High asset turnover indicates that a company needs to invest less of its capital, since it uses its assets more efficiently to generate sales. Service industries, for instance, often lack big capital investments.
- Finally, the leverage ratio shows how much the company is relying on liabilities to create its profits.
Generally, the higher these numbers, the better. That said, too much debt can sink a company, so beware of companies with very high leverage ratios.
Let's see what the DuPont Formula can tell us about Northeast Utilities (NYS: NU) and a few of its sector and industry peers:
Return on Equity
Northwestern (NYS: NWE)
Pepco Holdings (NYS: POM)
TECO Energy (NYS: TE)
Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.
The asset turnover and leverage are both in pretty narrow ranges here, so differences in ROE are largely a function of net margin. Northeast Utilities and TECO tie for the lead in this group, with Northeast's higher margin being offset by lower asset turnover. Northwestern is not far behind, with a somewhat lower margin at 7.2%, and Pepco turns in the lowest ROE and has the lowest margin.
Using the DuPont formula can often give you some insight into how a company is competing against peers and what type of strategy it's using to juice return on equity. To find more successful investments, dig deeper than the earnings headlines. If you'd like to add these companies to your Watchlist, or set up a new one, click on any of the following links:
- Add Northeast Utilities to My Watchlist.
- Add TECO Energy to My Watchlist.
- Add Pepco Holdings to My Watchlist.
- Add Northwestern to My Watchlist.
At the time this article was published Jim Royal, Ph.D.,does not own shares in any company mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.
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