While shareholders of Medifast (NYSE:MED) are in the red over the last three years, underlying earnings have actually grown

Medifast, Inc. -0.09%

Medifast, Inc.

MED

32.44

-0.09%

This week we saw the Medifast, Inc. (NYSE:MED) share price climb by 10%. But only the myopic could ignore the astounding decline over three years. The share price has sunk like a leaky ship, down 83% in that time. So it sure is nice to see a bit of an improvement. But the more important question is whether the underlying business can justify a higher price still. We really hope anyone holding through that price crash has a diversified portfolio. Even when you lose money, you don't have to lose the lesson.

While the last three years has been tough for Medifast shareholders, this past week has shown signs of promise. So let's look at the longer term fundamentals and see if they've been the driver of the negative returns.

Check out our latest analysis for Medifast

To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' 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.

Although the share price is down over three years, Medifast actually managed to grow EPS by 1.8% per year in that time. This is quite a puzzle, and suggests there might be something temporarily buoying the share price. Or else the company was over-hyped in the past, and so its growth has disappointed.

It looks to us like the market was probably too optimistic around growth three years ago. But it's possible a look at other metrics will be enlightening.

Revenue is actually up 3.8% over the three years, so the share price drop doesn't seem to hinge on revenue, either. It's probably worth investigating Medifast further; while we may be missing something on this analysis, there might also be an opportunity.

You can see how earnings and revenue have changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).

earnings-and-revenue-growth
NYSE:MED Earnings and Revenue Growth March 30th 2024

Take a more thorough look at Medifast's financial health with this free report on its balance sheet.

What About The Total Shareholder Return (TSR)?

We've already covered Medifast's share price action, but we should also mention its total shareholder return (TSR). The TSR attempts to capture the value of dividends (as if they were reinvested) as well as any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings offered to shareholders. Dividends have been really beneficial for Medifast shareholders, and that cash payout explains why its total shareholder loss of 81%, over the last 3 years, isn't as bad as the share price return.

A Different Perspective

While the broader market gained around 29% in the last year, Medifast shareholders lost 62%. Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. Unfortunately, last year's performance may indicate unresolved challenges, given that it was worse than the annualised loss of 11% over the last half decade. Generally speaking long term share price weakness can be a bad sign, though contrarian investors might want to research the stock in hope of a turnaround. 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. To that end, you should learn about the 2 warning signs we've spotted with Medifast (including 1 which is significant) .

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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

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