Vita Group (ASX:VTG) shareholders have endured a 78% loss from investing in the stock five years ago

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Long term investing is the way to go, but that doesn’t mean you should hold every stock forever. We don’t wish catastrophic capital loss on anyone. Anyone who held Vita Group Limited (ASX:VTG) for five years would be nursing their metaphorical wounds since the share price dropped 84% in that time. The falls have accelerated recently, with the share price down 22% in the last three months. We really hope anyone holding through that price crash has a diversified portfolio. Even when you lose money, you don’t have to lose the lesson.

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.

See our latest analysis for Vita Group

To paraphrase Benjamin Graham: Over the short term the market is a voting machine, but over the long term it’s a weighing machine. 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.

Looking back five years, both Vita Group’s share price and EPS declined; the latter at a rate of 8.7% per year. Readers should note that the share price has fallen faster than the EPS, at a rate of 31% per year, over the period. So it seems the market was too confident about the business, in the past. The low P/E ratio of 4.97 further reflects this reticence.

The image below shows how EPS has tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).

earnings-per-share-growth

We know that Vita Group has improved its bottom line lately, but is it going to grow revenue? Check if analysts think Vita Group will grow revenue in the future.

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 is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. In the case of Vita Group, it has a TSR of -78% 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

Investors in Vita Group had a tough year, with a total loss of 17% (including dividends), against a market gain of about 24%. 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. However, the loss over the last year isn’t as bad as the 12% per annum loss investors have suffered over the last half decade. We would want clear information suggesting the company will grow, before taking the view that the share price will stabilize. 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. Case in point: We’ve spotted 5 warning signs for Vita Group you should be aware of, and 1 of them can’t be ignored.

But note: Vita Group may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with past earnings growth (and further growth forecast).

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

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