Return on Equity (ROE)

Return on Equity Meaning

Return on Equity is a profitability metric that is used to compare the profits earned by a business to the value of its shareholders’ equity. ROE is calculated as Net Income divided by Shareholders Equity and is presented as a percentage. A 15% ROE indicates that the corporation earns $15 on every $100 of its share capital.


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ROE Formula

The formula of Return on Equity is stated below –

Return on Equity Formula = Net Income / Total Equity

Consider the following example of 2 companies having the same net income but different components of shareholder’s equity.

ParticularsCompany ACompany B
Net Income$5,000$5,000
Shareholder’s Equity$20,000$12,000

The ROE arrived after applying the formula are given as under

Return on Equity Examples 1-1

If one were to notice, we can see that the net income earned by the companies are the same. However, they differ with regard to the equity component.

Hence by looking at the example, we can understand that a higher ROE is always preferred as it indicates efficiency from the side of the management in generating higher profits from the given amount of capital.

Interpretation of Return on Equity

You can interpret ROE by expanding the ROE formula and make use of Dupont ROE equation.

DuPont ROE = (Net Income / Net Sales) x ( Net Sales / Total Assets) x Total Assets / Total Equity

DuPont Return on Equity   = Profit Margin * Total Asset Turnover * Equity Multiplier

Now you can interpret that they all are separate ratios. If you are wondering how come we have come to the conclusion that if we multiply these three ratios, we will get a return on equity, here’s how we have reached a conclusion.

  • Profit Margin = Net Income / Net Sales
  • Total Asset Turnover = Net Sales / Average Total Assets (or Total Assets)
  • Equity Multiplier = Total Assets / Total Equity

ROE is always useful. But to those investors who want to find out the “why” behind the current ROE (high or low), they need to use DuPont analysis to pinpoint where is the actual problem lies and where the firm has done well in.

In the DuPont model, we can look at three separate ratios by comparing which they can come to a conclusion whether it’s wise for them to invest in the company or not.

For example, if in equity multiplier, if we find out that the firm is more dependent on the debt rather than equity, we may not invest in the company because that may become a risky investment.

On the other hand, by using this DuPont model, you would be able to pare down the chances of losses by looking at profit margin and asset turnover and vice versa.

ROE Example

In this section, we will take two examples of Return on Equity. The first example is the easier one, and the second example would be a bit complex.

Let’s jump in and see the examples right away.

Example # 1

Let’s look at two firms A and B. Both of these companies operate in the same apparel industry, and most astonishingly, both of their Return on Equity (ROE) is 45%. Let’s look at the following ratios of each company so that we can understand where the problem lies (or opportunity) –

RatioFirm AFirm B
Profit Margin40%20%
Total Asset Turnover0.305.00
Equity Multiplier5.000.60

Now let’s look at each of the firms and analyze.

For Firm A, the profit margin is great, i.e., 40%, and financial leverage is also quite good, i.e., 4.00. But if we look at the total asset turnover, it’s much less. That means Firm A is not able to utilize its assets properly. But still, due to the other two factors, the Return on Equity is higher (0.40 * 0.30 * 5.00 = 0.60).

For Firm B, the profit margin is much lower, i.e., just 20% and the financial leverage is very poor, i.e., 0.60. But the total asset turnover is 5.00. Thus, for higher asset turnover, Firm B has performed well in the overall sense of Return on Equity (0.20 * 5.00 * 0.60 = 0.60).

Now imagine what would happen if the investors would only look at the Return on Equity of both these firms, they would only see that the ROE is quite good for both of the firms. But after doing DuPont analysis, the investors would get the actual picture of both of these firms.

Example # 2

At the of the year, we have these details about two companies –

In US $Company XCompany Y
Net Income15,00020,000
Net Sales120,000140,000
Total Assets100,000150,000
Total Equity50,00050,000

Now, if we directly calculate the ROE from the above information, we would get –

In US $Company XCompany Y
Net Income (1)15,00020,000
Total Equity (2)50,00050,000
Return on Equity (1 / 2)0.300.40

Now using the DuPont Analysis, we would look at each of the components (three ratios) and find out the real picture of both of these companies.

Let’s calculate the profit margin first.

In US $Company XCompany Y
Net Income (3)15,00020,000
Net Sales (4)120,000140,000
Profit Margin (3 / 4)0.1250.143

Now, let’s look at total asset turnover.

In US $Company XCompany Y
Net Sales (5)120,000140,000
Total Assets (6)100,000150,000
Total Asset Turnover (5 / 6)1.200.93

We will now calculate the last ratio, i.e., the financial leverage of both the companies.

In US $Company XCompany Y
Total Assets (7)100,000150,000
Total Equity (8)50,00050,000
Financial Leverage (7 / 8)2.003.00

Using DuPont analysis, here’s the ROE for both of the companies.

In US $Company XCompany Y
Profit Margin (A)0.1250.143
Total Asset Turnover (B)1.200.93
Financial Leverage (C)2.003.00
Return on Equity (DuPont) (A*B*C)0.300.40

If we compare each of the ratios, we would be able to see the clear picture of each of the companies. For Company X and Company Y, financial leverage is the strongest point. For both of them, they have a higher ratio in financial leverage. In the case of profit margin, both of these companies have a lesser profit margin, even less than 15%. The asset turnover of Company X is much better than Company Y. So when investors would use DuPont, they would be able to understand the pressing points of the company before investing.

Calculate Return on Equity of Nestle

Let’s look at the income statement and balance sheet of Nestle, and then we will calculate the ROE and ROE using DuPont.

Consolidated income statement for the year ended 31st December 2014 & 2015

Nestle - Income Statement ROE

The consolidated balance sheet as at 31st December 2014 & 2015

Nestle - Shareholder's Equity - Dupont ROE


  • ROE Formula = Net Income / Sales
  • Return on Equity (2015) = 9467 / 63986 = 14.8%
  • Return on Equity (2014) = 14904 / 71,884 = 20.7%

Now we would use DuPont analysis to calculate Return on Equity for 2014 and 2015.

In millions of CHF20152014
Profit for the year (1)946714904
Sales (2)8878591612
Total assets (3)123992133450
Total Equity (4)6398671884
Profit Margin (A = 1/2)10.7%16.3%
Total Asset Turnover (B = 2/3)0.716x0.686x
Equity Multiplier (C = 3/4)1.938x1.856x
Return on Equity (A*B*C)14.8%20.7%

As we note from above, that basic ROE formula and DuPont FormulaDuPont FormulaDuPont formula determines the return on equity (ROE), depicting the efficient utilization of shareholders' capital into the business for generating revenue. The formula is "Return on Equity (ROE) = Profit Margin * Total Asset Turnover * Leverage Factor".read more provides us with the same answer. However, DuPont analysis helps us in analyzing the reasons why there was an increase or decrease in ROE.

For example, for Nestle, Return on Equity decreased from 20.7% in 2014 to 14.8% in 2015. Why?

DuPont Analysis helps us find out the reasons.

We note that Nestle’s Profit Margin for 2014 was 16.3%; however, it was 10.7% in 2015. We note that this is a huge dip in profit margin.

Comparatively, if we look at other components of DuPont, we do not see such substantial differences.

There we conclude that the decrease in profit margin has led to the reduction of ROE for Nestle.

Colgate’s ROE calculation

Now that we know how to calculate Return on Equity from Annual Filings let us analyze the ROE of Colgate and identify reasons for its increase/decrease.

Below is a snapshot of the Colgate Ratio Analysis Excel Sheet. You can download this sheet from Ratio Analysis TutorialRatio Analysis TutorialRatio analysis is the quantitative interpretation of the company's financial performance. It provides valuable information about the organization's profitability, solvency, operational efficiency and liquidity positions as represented by the financial more. Please note that in Colgate’s calculation of ROE, we have used Average Balance Sheet numbers (instead of year-end).

Colgate Return on Equity has remained healthy in the last 7-8 years. Between 2008 to 2013, ROE was around 90% on average.

ROE - Colgate 2

In 2014, Return on Equity was at 126.4%, and in 2015, it jumped significantly to 327.2%.

Return on Equity - Ratio Analysis Colgate

This has happened despite a 34% decrease in Net Income in 2015. Return on Equity jumped significantly because of the decrease in Shareholder’s
Equity in 2015. Shareholder’s equity decreased due to share buybackShare BuybackShare buyback refers to the repurchase of the company’s own outstanding shares from the open market using the accumulated funds of the company to decrease the outstanding shares in the company’s balance sheet. This is done either to increase the value of the existing shares or to prevent various shareholders from controlling the more and also because of accumulated losses that flow through the Shareholder’s Equity.

Colgate Dupont Return on Equity = (Net Income / Sales) x (Sales / Total Assets) x (Total Assets / Shareholder’s Equity). Here please note that the Net Income is after the minority shareholder’s payment. Also, the shareholder’s equity consists of only the common shareholders of Colgate.
Dupont ROE 1
We note that the asset turnover has shown a declining trend over the past 7-8 years. Profitability has also declined over the past 5-6 years.
However, ROE has not shown a declining trend. It is increasing overall. This is because of the Equity Multiplier (total assets / total equity). We note that the Equity Multiplier has shown a steady increase over the past 5 years and is currently stands at 30x.

Limitations of ROE

  • There are so many inputs to be fed. So if there is one error in the calculation, the whole thing would go wrong. Moreover, the source of information also needs to be reliable. The wrong calculation means a wrong interpretation.
  • Seasonal factors should also be taken into consideration in terms of calculating the ratios. In the case of DuPont Analysis, the seasonal factors should be taken into account, which most of the time isn’t possible.

ROE Video

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