General Mills, Inc. (NYSE:GIS) Delivered A Better ROE Than Its Industry

General Mills, Inc. +1.11%
 General Mills, Inc. GIS 67.23 +1.11%

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. To keep the lesson grounded in practicality, we'll use ROE to better understand General Mills, Inc. (NYSE:GIS).

Return on equity or ROE is a key measure used to assess how efficiently a company's management is utilizing the company's capital. In short, ROE shows the profit each dollar generates with respect to its shareholder investments.

See our latest analysis for General Mills

## How To Calculate Return On Equity?

Return on equity can be calculated by using the formula:

Return on Equity = Net Profit (from continuing operations) ÷ Shareholders' Equity

So, based on the above formula, the ROE for General Mills is:

26% = US\$2.5b ÷ US\$9.6b (Based on the trailing twelve months to November 2023).

The 'return' is the profit over the last twelve months. That means that for every \$1 worth of shareholders' equity, the company generated \$0.26 in profit.

## Does General Mills 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. Importantly, this is far from a perfect measure, because companies differ significantly within the same industry classification. As you can see in the graphic below, General Mills has a higher ROE than the average (11%) in the Food industry.

That's clearly a positive. Bear in mind, a high ROE doesn't always mean superior financial performance. Aside from changes in net income, a high ROE can also be the outcome of high debt relative to equity, which indicates risk.

## How Does Debt Impact Return On Equity?

Most companies need money -- from somewhere -- to grow their profits. The cash for investment can come from prior year profits (retained earnings), issuing new shares, or borrowing. 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. That will make the ROE look better than if no debt was used.

## Combining General Mills' Debt And Its 26% Return On Equity

It's worth noting the high use of debt by General Mills, leading to its debt to equity ratio of 1.31. While no doubt that its ROE is impressive, we would have been even more impressed had the company achieved this with lower debt. Debt increases risk and reduces options for the company in the future, so you generally want to see some good returns from using it.

## Conclusion

Return on equity is a useful indicator of the ability of a business to generate profits and return them to shareholders. In our books, the highest quality companies have high return on equity, despite low debt. All else being equal, a higher ROE is better.

Having said that, while ROE is a useful indicator of business quality, you'll have to look at a whole range of factors to determine the right price to buy a stock. It is important to consider other factors, such as future profit growth -- and how much investment is required going forward. So I think it may be worth checking this free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

If you would prefer check out another company -- one with potentially superior financials -- then do not miss this free list of interesting companies, that have HIGH return on equity and low debt.