• S&P/TSX

21,554.86
-26.44 (-0.12%)

• S&P 500

5,464.62
-8.55 (-0.16%)

• DOW

39,150.33
+15.53 (+0.04%)

0.7302
-0.0004 (-0.05%)

• CRUDE OIL

80.59
-0.70 (-0.86%)

87,752.01
-289.74 (-0.33%)

• CMC Crypto 200

1,320.72
-39.61 (-2.91%)

• GOLD FUTURES

2,334.70
-34.30 (-1.45%)

• RUSSELL 2000

2,022.03
+4.64 (+0.23%)

• 10-Yr Bond

4.2570
+0.0030 (+0.07%)

• NASDAQ

17,689.36
-32.24 (-0.18%)

• VOLATILITY

13.20
-0.08 (-0.60%)

• FTSE

8,237.72
-34.74 (-0.42%)

• NIKKEI 225

38,596.47
-36.53 (-0.09%)

0.6826
+0.0005 (+0.07%)

Boasting A 33% Return On Equity, Is Waste Management, Inc. (NYSE:WM) A Top Quality Stock?

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 Waste Management, Inc. (NYSE:WM), 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 our latest analysis for Waste Management

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 Waste Management is:

33% = US\$2.3b ÷ US\$6.8b (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2023).

The 'return' is the income the business earned over the last year. One way to conceptualize this is that for each \$1 of shareholders' capital it has, the company made \$0.33 in profit.

Does Waste Management Have A Good ROE?

By comparing a company's ROE with its industry average, we can get a quick measure of how good it is. The limitation of this approach is that some companies are quite different from others, even within the same industry classification. As is clear from the image below, Waste Management has a better ROE than the average (12%) in the Commercial Services industry.

That's what we like to see. However, bear in mind that a high ROE doesn’t necessarily indicate efficient profit generation. Especially when a firm uses high levels of debt to finance its debt which may boost its ROE but the high leverage puts the company at risk. To know the 2 risks we have identified for Waste Management visit our risks dashboard for free.

How Does Debt Impact Return On Equity?

Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. That cash can come from retained earnings, issuing new shares (equity), or debt. In the first and second cases, the ROE will reflect this use of cash for investment in the business. 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.

Waste Management's Debt And Its 33% ROE

It's worth noting the high use of debt by Waste Management, leading to its debt to equity ratio of 2.15. 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 does bring extra risk, so it's only really worthwhile when a company generates some decent returns from 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 around the same level of debt to equity, and one has a higher ROE, I'd generally prefer the one with higher ROE.

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.

But note: Waste Management may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with high ROE and low debt.

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.

Join A Paid User Research Session
You’ll receive a US\$30 Amazon Gift card for 1 hour of your time while helping us build better investing tools for the individual investors like yourself. Sign up here