Associated British Foods (LON:ABF) shareholders have endured a 18% loss from investing in the stock five years ago

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While it may not be enough for some shareholders, we think it is good to see the Associated British Foods plc (LON:ABF) share price up 14% in a single quarter. But over the last half decade, the stock has not performed well. You would have done a lot better buying an index fund, since the stock has dropped 24% in that half decade.

Now let’s have a look at the company’s fundamentals, and see if the long term shareholder return has matched the performance of the underlying business.

Check out our latest analysis for Associated British Foods

While the efficient markets hypothesis continues to be taught by some, it has been proven that markets are over-reactive dynamic systems, and investors are not always rational. 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.

During the five years over which the share price declined, Associated British Foods’ earnings per share (EPS) dropped by 10% each year. The share price decline of 5% per year isn’t as bad as the EPS decline. So the market may previously have expected a drop, or else it expects the situation will improve.

The graphic below depicts how EPS has changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).

earnings-per-share-growth

It might be well worthwhile taking a look at our free report on Associated British Foods’ earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What About Dividends?

It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. In the case of Associated British Foods, it has a TSR of -18% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

Associated British Foods shareholders are down 7.1% for the year (even including dividends), but the market itself is up 13%. 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 3% 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. Before spending more time on Associated British Foods it might be wise to click here to see if insiders have been buying or selling shares.

If you would prefer to check out another company — one with potentially superior financials — then do not miss this free list of companies that have proven they can grow earnings.

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

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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.