Lithia Motors' (NYSE:LAD) earnings growth rate lags the 23% CAGR delivered to shareholders
Lithia Motors, Inc. Class A
Lithia Motors, Inc. (NYSE:LAD) shareholders might be concerned after seeing the share price drop 23% in the last quarter. But that doesn't change the fact that shareholders have received really good returns over the last five years. We think most investors would be happy with the 172% return, over that period. So while it's never fun to see a share price fall, it's important to look at a longer time horizon. Ultimately business performance will determine whether the stock price continues the positive long term trend.
In light of the stock dropping 6.2% in the past week, we want to investigate the longer term story, and see if fundamentals have been the driver of the company's positive five-year return.
There is no denying that markets are sometimes efficient, but prices do not always reflect underlying business performance. One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.
Over half a decade, Lithia Motors managed to grow its earnings per share at 26% a year. So the EPS growth rate is rather close to the annualized share price gain of 22% per year. This indicates that investor sentiment towards the company has not changed a great deal. In fact, the share price seems to largely reflect the EPS growth.
The graphic below depicts how EPS has changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).
It is of course excellent to see how Lithia Motors has grown profits over the years, but the future is more important for shareholders. You can see how its balance sheet has strengthened (or weakened) over time in this free interactive graphic.
What About Dividends?
When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. We note that for Lithia Motors the TSR over the last 5 years was 183%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
It's nice to see that Lithia Motors shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 20% over the last year. Of course, that includes the dividend. However, the TSR over five years, coming in at 23% per year, is even more impressive. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. For example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Lithia Motors (1 is potentially serious!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
We will like Lithia Motors better if we see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on American exchanges.
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.