Investing in Williams Companies (NYSE:WMB) three years ago would have delivered you a 64% gain

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Buying a low-cost index fund will get you the average market return. But if you invest in individual stocks, some are likely to underperform. Unfortunately for shareholders, while the The Williams Companies, Inc. (NYSE:WMB) share price is up 35% in the last three years, that falls short of the market return. Some buyers are laughing, though, with an increase of 34% in the last year.

So let’s assess the underlying fundamentals over the last 3 years and see if they’ve moved in lock-step with shareholder returns.

See our latest analysis for Williams Companies

In his essay The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville Warren Buffett described how share prices do not always rationally reflect the value of a business. One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.

During three years of share price growth, Williams Companies moved from a loss to profitability. That would generally be considered a positive, so we’d expect the share price to be up.

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

earnings-per-share-growth

It is of course excellent to see how Williams Companies has grown profits over the years, but the future is more important for shareholders. This free interactive report on Williams Companies’ balance sheet strength is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.

What About Dividends?

When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. In the case of Williams Companies, it has a TSR of 64% for the last 3 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

We’re pleased to report that Williams Companies shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 42% over one year. That’s including the dividend. Since the one-year TSR is better than the five-year TSR (the latter coming in at 11% per year), it would seem that the stock’s performance has improved in recent times. In the best case scenario, this may hint at some real business momentum, implying that now could be a great time to delve deeper. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. To that end, you should learn about the 2 warning signs we’ve spotted with Williams Companies (including 1 which can’t be ignored) .

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 US 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.