Operating efficiency as measured by profit margin 2

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Unformatted text preview: us that ROE is affected by three things: 1. Operating efficiency (as measured by profit margin) 2. Asset use efficiency (as measured by total asset turnover) 3. Financial leverage (as measured by the equity multiplier) Weakness in either operating or asset use efficiency (or both) will show up in a diminished return on assets, which will translate into a lower ROE. Considering the Du Pont identity, it appears that the ROE could be leveraged up by increasing the amount of debt in the firm. However, notice that increasing debt also increases interest expense, which reduces profit margins, which acts to reduce ROE. So, ROE could go up or down, depending. More important, the use of debt financing has a number of other effects, and, as we discuss at some length in later chapters, the amount of leverage a firm uses is governed by its capital structure policy. The decomposition of ROE we’ve discussed in this section is a convenient way of systematically approaching financial statement analysis. If ROE is unsatisfactory by some measure, then the Du Pont identity tells you where to start looking for the reasons. General Motors provides a good example of how Du Pont analysis can be very useful and also illustrates why care must be taken in interpreting ROE values. In 1989, GM had an ROE of 12.1 percent. By 1993, its ROE had improved to 44.1 percent, a dramatic improvement. On closer inspection, however, we find that, over the same period, GM’s profit margin had declined from 3.4 to 1.8 percent, and ROA had declined from 2.4 to 1.3 percent. The decline in ROA was moderated only slightly by an increase in total asset turnover from .71 to .73 over the period. Given this information, how is it possible for GM’s ROE to have climbed so sharply? From our understanding of the Du Pont identity, it must be the case that GM’s equity multiplier increased substantially. In fact, what happened was that GM’s book equity value was almost wiped out overnight in 1992 by changes in the accounting treatment of pension liabilities. If a company’s equity value declines sharply, its equity multiplier rises. In GM’s case, the multiplier went from 4.95 in 1989 to 33.62 in 1993. In sum, the dramatic “improvement” in GM’s ROE was almost entirely due to an accounting change that affected the equity multiplier and doesn’t really represent an improvement in financial performance at all. A nearby The Real World box discusses some additional issues along these lines. An Expanded Du Pont Analysis So far, we’ve seen how the Du Pont equation lets us break down ROE into its basic three components: profit margin, total asset turnover, and financial leverage. We now extend this analysis to take a closer look at how key parts of a firm’s operations feed into ROE. To get going, we went to the S&P Market Insight Web page (www.mhhe.com/ edumarketinsight) and pulled abbreviated financial statements for science and technology giant Du Pont. What we found is summarized in Table 3....
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This note was uploaded on 10/28/2009 for the course FINA 505 taught by Professor Deborahcernauskas during the Summer '09 term at Northern Illinois University.

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