What Is the Return on Equity Ratio, or ROE?

How to Calculate the ROE Ratio

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The return on equity (ROE) ratio, sometimes called return on net worth, is a profitability ratio that allows business owners to see how effectively the money they invested in their firm is being used. Return on equity is usually seen as the bottom-line measure of a firm's performance.

Keep reading to learn how to calculate ROE, and how to analyze the results.

What Is the Return on Equity Ratio?

Return on equity is a way of measuring what a company does with investors' money. It compares the total profits of a company to the total amount of equity financing that the company has received. In other words, the ROE ratio tells investors how much profit the company has generated for every dollar they invested.

This type of measurement, comparing profits within a specific context, is known as a profitability ratio. It measures the performance of a company in terms of profits. Profitability ratios help to compare companies in the same industry, which are likely to have similar overhead costs and market conditions.

Profitability ratios are broader ratios than efficiency ratios. Profitability ratios measure profits against components like revenue, balance sheet assets, and operating costs. Efficiency ratios measure how effectively a company uses specific assets, such as comparing the cost of goods sold to the average inventory. Both kinds of formulas are important for analysts.

How Do You Calculate the Return on Equity Ratio?

To calculate the return on equity ratio, simply divide the net income (usually measured on an annual basis) by the company's shareholders' equity.

Return on equity ratio formula

How Does the Return on Equity Ratio Work?

To better understand the return on equity ratio, it may be helpful to refresh yourself on what equity is. Equity refers to the ownership interest of investors in a business firm. Equity ownership in the firm means that the original business owner no longer owns 100% of the firm, but shares ownership with others.

Many businesses finance themselves with equity, which means they sell part of the company (such as by issuing stock shares) to other people who want to become investors. The business receives money to finance its operations, and the investors receive partial ownership in the company (with the hopes that the company will grow in the future).

On a company's balance sheet, equity is represented by common stock, preferred stock, paid-in capital, and retained earnings. Total equity can be calculated by subtracting total liabilities from total assets.

Investors who put money into a company want to measure how well a company uses that money, and that's why they use the ROE ratio.

The DuPont Method

While the ROE can be quickly calculated using the formula above, there's another method of assessment that attempts to add some detail to the company's financial outlook. This strategy was introduced by the DuPont Corporation in the 1920s, so it has become known as the "DuPont method," the "DuPont model," or "DuPont analysis."

Instead of broadly comparing net income to shareholders' equity, this model gets more specific by comparing three separate financial ratios. They are:

  • Asset turnover
  • The net profit margin
  • The equity multiplier

Multiplying these three ratios gives you the ROE as measured by the DuPont method. This allows business owners to pinpoint the source of a company's ROE and make more specific comparisons to competitors.

Limitations of the Return on Equity Ratio

ROE is a useful profitability ratio, but it shouldn't be the only ratio used in analysis. Another helpful profitability ratio is the return on assets (ROA). ROA tells business owners how efficient a business is at turning assets into profits, not just equity. It's calculated by dividing a company's net income by its average assets.

Both the ROE and ROA broadly assess a company's profitability, but it won't tell you specifically which aspects of the company are profitable and which aren't. Efficiency ratios give analysts a better sense of how effectively a company spends its resources, manages inventory levels, and reduces overhead costs.

Key Takeaways

  • The return on equity (ROE) ratio compares net income to total shareholders' equity.
  • Analysts can use this formula to determine how much profit a company generates with every $1 contributed by investors.
  • ROE is a profitability ratio, so it doesn't get as specific as efficiency ratios do.

Article Sources

  1. Corporate Finance Institute. "Return on Equity (ROE)." Accessed Aug. 11, 2020.

  2. Corporate Finance Institute. "Profitability Ratios." Accessed Aug. 11, 2020.

  3. Corporate Finance Institute. "Efficiency Ratios." Accessed Aug. 11, 2020.

  4. Corporate Finance Institute. "DuPont Analysis." Accessed Aug. 11, 2020.

  5. Corporate Finance Institute. "Return on Assets & ROA Formula." Accessed Aug. 11, 2020.