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Greif (NYSE:GEF) stock performs better than its underlying earnings growth over last three years

One simple way to benefit from the stock market is to buy an index fund. But if you pick the right individual stocks, you could make more than that. For example, Greif, Inc. (NYSE:GEF) shareholders have seen the share price rise 54% over three years, well in excess of the market return (18%, not including dividends). However, more recent returns haven't been as impressive as that, with the stock returning just 17% in the last year , including dividends .

The past week has proven to be lucrative for Greif investors, so let's see if fundamentals drove the company's three-year performance.

Check out our latest analysis for Greif

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.

During three years of share price growth, Greif achieved compound earnings per share growth of 31% per year. This EPS growth is higher than the 15% average annual increase in the share price. So one could reasonably conclude that the market has cooled on the stock. This cautious sentiment is reflected in its (fairly low) P/E ratio of 8.85.

You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).

earnings-per-share-growth
earnings-per-share-growth

It's probably worth noting that the CEO is paid less than the median at similar sized companies. But while CEO remuneration is always worth checking, the really important question is whether the company can grow earnings going forward. Dive deeper into the earnings by checking this interactive graph of Greif's earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What About Dividends?

It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. 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 Greif the TSR over the last 3 years was 72%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

It's nice to see that Greif shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 17% over the last year. And that does include the dividend. Since the one-year TSR is better than the five-year TSR (the latter coming in at 7% per year), it would seem that the stock's performance has improved in recent times. Given the share price momentum remains strong, it might be worth taking a closer look at the stock, lest you miss an opportunity. It's always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand Greif better, we need to consider many other factors. Take risks, for example - Greif has 3 warning signs (and 1 which is potentially serious) we think you should know about.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.

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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