June 24, 2024

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Is International Business Machines Corporation (NYSE:IBM) A High Quality Stock To Own?

4 min read

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). By way of learning-by-doing, we’ll look at ROE to gain a better understanding of International Business Machines Corporation (NYSE:IBM).

Return on equity or ROE is a key measure used to assess how efficiently a company’s management is utilizing the company’s capital. Put another way, it reveals the company’s success at turning shareholder investments into profits.

Check out our latest analysis for International Business Machines

How To Calculate Return On Equity?

ROE can be calculated by using the formula:

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

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for International Business Machines is:

35% = US$8.2b ÷ US$23b (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2024).

The ‘return’ is the profit over the last twelve months. One way to conceptualize this is that for each $1 of shareholders’ capital it has, the company made $0.35 in profit.

Does International Business Machines Have A Good Return On Equity?

Arguably the easiest way to assess company’s ROE is to compare it with the average in its industry. However, this method is only useful as a rough check, because companies do differ quite a bit within the same industry classification. As you can see in the graphic below, International Business Machines has a higher ROE than the average (11%) in the IT industry.

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NYSE:IBM Return on Equity May 22nd 2024

That’s clearly a positive. With that said, a high ROE doesn’t always indicate high profitability. A higher proportion of debt in a company’s capital structure may also result in a high ROE, where the high debt levels could be a huge risk .

The Importance Of Debt To Return On Equity

Virtually all companies need money to invest in the business, to grow profits. That cash can come from retained earnings, issuing new shares (equity), or debt. In the first two cases, the ROE will capture this use of capital to grow. In the latter case, the debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders’ equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.

Combining International Business Machines’ Debt And Its 35% Return On Equity

International Business Machines clearly uses a high amount of debt to boost returns, as it has a debt to equity ratio of 2.52. There’s no doubt the ROE is impressive, but it’s worth keeping in mind that the metric could have been lower if the company were to reduce its debt. Debt increases risk and reduces options for the company in the future, so you generally want to see some good returns from using it.

Conclusion

Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. A company that can achieve a high return on equity without debt could be considered a high quality business. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.

But when a business is high quality, the market often bids it up to a price that reflects this. 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.

Of course International Business Machines 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.

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

Find out whether International Business Machines 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

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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