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# Exxon: A Price-Bubble Case?

In this article, let´s see one of the most important financial ratios applying to stockholders, the best measure of performance for a firm's management: the Return on Equity (ROE), and we are going to analyze it in the case of Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM).

ROE is calculated as net income applicable to common shares divided by the average book value of common equity: ROE = Net Income / Av. Book Value

A higher ROE is viewed as a positive aspect for the company, but the reason behind it should be examine. From the equation above, we can see that if book value is decreasing more rapidly than net income, the ratio will increase, but this is not good for the firm.

Dupont Analysis

This approach can be used to analyze the ROE. With some algebra we can break down ROE into a function of different ratios. Firstly, we are going to consider the original approach:

Original Dupont Equation: Three-Part Dupont

Taking the ROE equation: ROE = net income / shareholder's equity and multiplying ROE by (revenue / revenue), and rearranging terms we get:

ROE = (net income / revenue) * (revenue / shareholder's equity)

We now have ROE broken into two parts, the first is net profit margin, and the second is the equity turnover ratio. Now we can expand this by multiplying these terms by (assets / assets), and rearranging we end up with the three-step DuPont equation.

ROE = (Net Income / Revenue) * (Revenue / Assets) * (Assets / Shareholder's Equity)

This equation for ROE breaks it into three widely used and studied components:

ROE = (Net profit margin)* (Asset Turnover) * (Leverage ratio)

The first term is what we called previously net profit margin, the second term is asset turnover and the third tem is a financial leverage ratio. If we have a low ROE, one of the following must be true:

• The firm has a poor profit margin
• The firm has a poor asset turnover
• The firm has a little leverage
 ROE (%) 3-Step Dec-04 Dec-05 Dec-06 Dec-07 Dec-08 Dec-09 Dec-10 Dec-11 Dec-12 Dec-13 Net Profit Margin 8.5 9.75 10.46 10.04 9.47 6.21 7.95 8.44 9.34 7.43 Asset Turnover 1.53 1.78 1.72 1.67 2.09 1.33 1.27 1.47 1.44 1.26 Leverage 1.92 1.89 1.92 2.00 2.00 2.13 2.04 2.13 2.00 2.00 ROE 24.89 32.5 34.7 33.35 40.03 17.44 20.74 26.59 27.06 18.72

Final Comment

As outlined in the article, a key ratio used to determine management efficiency is the ROE. It is very important to understand this metric before investing and it is important to look at the trend in ROE over time. So let´s see the evolution on the next chart:

As we can appreciate, the ROE has decreased and it can be attributed to the decline in profitability as measured by the Net Profit Margin, which I think it is a bit worrying. Now let´s see the stock price and the ROE in one graph:

A declining ROE generally leads to a decline in the price of the company's stock. It tells us that each dollar invested in the company is earning less and less each year. So based on this analysis I would recommend to stay away from this stock. Scott Black (Trades, Portfolio) and Signature Select Canadian Fund (Trades, Portfolio) sold the stock in the first quarter of 2014.

Disclosure: Omar Venerio holds no position in any stocks mentioned.

ovenerio
Omar Venerio is capital markets, derivatives, corporate finance and financial management professor. He is passionate about the stock market and providing independent fundamental research and hedge fund and insider trading-focused investigation.

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