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Return on Equity (ROE)

How profitable is a company, relative to its book value? This is what return on equity (ROE) measures. A company's equity, or book value, is total assets minus total liabilities. In other words, if you sold off all the assets, paid off all the debts, equity is what you are left with. The ROE tells us how much profit profit the firm generates for each rupee of equity it owns. For example, a firm with an ROE of 10% means that they generate profit of Rs 10 for every Rs 100 of equity it owns.

ROE is a measure of the profitability of the firm. It also depends on a firm's total leverage, or debt level. For a given level of assets, the higher the liabilities (debt), the lower the equity. And the lower the equity, the higher the return on equity.

This is critical to keep in mind when comparing the ROE across firms. Sometimes, a firm can have a higher ROE because it has more debt, not because it is actually more profitable. Thus, it is best to compare ROE across firms with similar levels of debt or leverage. Typically, firms in the same industry will have similar levels of debt or leverage.

The ROE is computed entirely from a company's accounts. This is unlike indicators such as the PB ratio, that uses the share price as well as accounting information. Whereas ROE measures how profitable a firm is relative to its book value, the PB ratio tells us the price of the stock, relative to its book value. This means that the ROE does not tell us anything about whether the firm's stock is cheap or expensive. It tells us only whether the firm is profitable or not.

The Return on Equity Formula

The ROE is the net income from the firms most recent income statement, divided by the total equity at the end of the period. The income statement is measured over a period of time (e.g. one year), whereas equity is measured at a single point in time. An alternative calculation uses the average total equity, where we compute the average value of equity between the start and end of the year. Total equity is equal to total assets minus total liabilities, which is the same as the book value of the firm.

ROE = 100% * (net income / total equity)
total equity = total assets - total liabilities

Calculating the Return on Equity, An Example

Suppose Bajaj Auto's most recent net income is Rs Cr 3,828. And their total equity is Rs Cr 17,034. Using our formula gives us an ROE of 22.5%

Bajaj Auto ROE = 100% * (Rs Cr 3,828 / Rs Cr 17,034) = 22.5%

Comparing Return on Equity with Other Indicators

How does the ROE compare to other indicators, such as return on assets (ROA) or return on invested capital (ROIC)? These three indicators all aim to answer the same question: how profitable is the company? All three indicators use only accounting variables, and no market variables. This means that they do not tell us whether the stock is cheap or expensive. They tell us only how profitable the company is.

ROA uses total assets in the denominator instead of total equity. Since assets are always larger than equity, ROA is always smaller than ROE. If liabilities are large relative to assets, then there is a big difference between ROE and ROA. ROA can be a better comparison between firms that have different debt levels or leverage.

The ROIC is a more complex measure that aims to better capture a company's profitability from its core operations. Instead of using net income in the numerator, it uses net operating profit after taxes. This removes any income that does not come from a company's core operations. The denominator uses total capital instead of total equity. This is done be removing cash and current liabilities, so that only capital used to operate the business is considered.

India's Most Attractive Companies Based on Return on Equity

In this live data section, you can find the stocks with the most attractive ROE.

SCRIP* RETURN ON EQUITY(%) (5-Yr Avg) GET MORE INFO
CASTROL INDIA 90.5  More Info 
HIND. UNILEVER 88.6  More Info 
COLGATE 73.0  More Info 
HAWKINS COOKERS 61.9  More Info 
PAGE INDUSTRIES 47.5  More Info 
BRITANNIA 43.1  More Info 
CRISIL 42.4  More Info 
VST INDUSTRIES 40.7  More Info 
NESTLE 39.8  More Info 
ECLERX SERVICES 38.9  More Info 

The Stock Screener runs on Equitymaster's own database, which comprises India's leading 578 companies.
*Data is consolidated wherever applicable

>>  Here's the full list of India's most attractively valued companies


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