Investing in ATCO (TSE:ACO.X) a year ago would have delivered you a 19% gain

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We believe investing is smart because history shows that stock markets go higher in the long term. But if when you choose to buy stocks, some of them will be below average performers. For example, the ATCO Ltd. (TSE:ACO.X), share price is up over the last year, but its gain of 14% trails the market return. However, the longer term returns haven’t been so impressive, with the stock up just 6.4% in the last three years.

So let’s assess the underlying fundamentals over the last 1 year and see if they’ve moved in lock-step with shareholder returns.

See our latest analysis for ATCO

While markets are a powerful pricing mechanism, share prices reflect investor sentiment, not just underlying business performance. One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company’s share price and its earnings per share (EPS).

Over the last twelve months, ATCO actually shrank its EPS by 21%.

Given the share price gain, we doubt the market is measuring progress with EPS. Since the change in EPS doesn’t seem to correlate with the change in share price, it’s worth taking a look at other metrics.

For starters, we suspect the share price has been buoyed by the dividend, which was increased during the year. It could be that the company is reaching maturity and dividend investors are buying for the yield, pushing the price up in the process.

You can see below how earnings and revenue have changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).

TSX:ACO.X Earnings and Revenue Growth January 6th 2022

It’s probably worth noting we’ve seen significant insider buying in the last quarter, which we consider a positive. That said, we think earnings and revenue growth trends are even more important factors to consider. So it makes a lot of sense to check out what analysts think ATCO will earn in the future (free profit forecasts).

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. We note that for ATCO the TSR over the last 1 year was 19%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

ATCO shareholders have received returns of 19% over twelve months (even including dividends), which isn’t far from the general market return. That gain looks pretty satisfying, and it is even better than the five-year TSR of 2% per year. Even if the share price growth slows down from here, there’s a good chance that this is business worth watching in the long term. 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. Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We’ve identified 2 warning signs with ATCO (at least 1 which can’t be ignored) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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