With A 13% Return On Equity, Is Leggett & Platt, Incorporated (NYSE:LEG) A Quality Stock?

Leggett & Platt, Incorporated +3.28%
 Leggett & Platt, Incorporated LEG 18.26 +3.28%

Many investors are still learning about the various metrics that can be useful when analysing a stock. This article is for those who would like to learn about Return On Equity (ROE). We'll use ROE to examine Leggett & Platt, Incorporated (NYSE:LEG), by way of a worked example.

Return on Equity or ROE is a test of how effectively a company is growing its value and managing investors’ money. Simply put, it is used to assess the profitability of a company in relation to its equity capital.

View our latest analysis for Leggett & Platt

## 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 Leggett & Platt is:

13% = US\$213m ÷ US\$1.6b (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2023).

The 'return' is the income the business earned over the last year. So, this means that for every \$1 of its shareholder's investments, the company generates a profit of \$0.13.

## Does Leggett & Platt Have A Good Return On Equity?

Arguably the easiest way to assess company's ROE is to compare it with the average in its industry. However, this method is only useful as a rough check, because companies do differ quite a bit within the same industry classification. As is clear from the image below, Leggett & Platt has a lower ROE than the average (16%) in the Consumer Durables industry.

That's not what we like to see. That being said, a low ROE is not always a bad thing, especially if the company has low leverage as this still leaves room for improvement if the company were to take on more debt. When a company has low ROE but high debt levels, we would be cautious as the risk involved is too high. Our risks dashboard should have the 3 risks we have identified for Leggett & Platt.

## How Does Debt Impact ROE?

Companies usually need to invest money to grow their profits. That cash can come from issuing shares, retained earnings, or debt. In the first two cases, the ROE will capture this use of capital to grow. In the latter case, the debt required for growth will boost returns, but will not impact the shareholders' equity. Thus the use of debt can improve ROE, albeit along with extra risk in the case of stormy weather, metaphorically speaking.

## Leggett & Platt's Debt And Its 13% ROE

It's worth noting the high use of debt by Leggett & Platt, leading to its debt to equity ratio of 1.21. There's no doubt its ROE is decent, but the very high debt the company carries is not too exciting to see. Investors should think carefully about how a company might perform if it was unable to borrow so easily, because credit markets do change over time.

## Conclusion

Return on equity is useful for comparing the quality of different businesses. Companies that can achieve high returns on equity without too much debt are generally of good quality. If two companies have the same ROE, then I would generally prefer the one with less debt.

But when a business is high quality, the market often bids it up to a price that reflects this. Profit growth rates, versus the expectations reflected in the price of the stock, are a particularly important to consider. So you might want to check this FREE visualization of analyst forecasts for the company.

But note: Leggett & Platt may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with high ROE and low debt.