Understanding Return On Common Stockholders Equity Ratio

Return On Common Stockholders Equity Ratio (ROCE) is a crucial financial metric that measures how efficiently a company utilizes capital invested by common shareholders to generate profits. In simple terms, it shows how much profit a company makes for every dollar invested by common stockholders.

Return On Common Stockholders Equity Ratio

A high ROCE indicates that the company is efficiently using common shareholders’ funds to drive growth and profits. This article provides a comprehensive guide on ROCE – how it is calculated, interpreted, used for analysis, limitations, and tips for improvement.

How to Calculate Return on Common Stockholders’ Equity

The formula to calculate ROCE is:

ROCE = (Net Income – Preferred Dividends) / Average Common Shareholders’ Equity


  • Net Income: Company’s net profit after taxes for the period
  • Preferred Dividends: Total dividends paid to preferred shareholders
  • Average Common Shareholders’ Equity: Average of common equity at the beginning and end of period

To understand this better, let’s go through an example:

  • Company A has Net Income of $50 million in 2023
  • It paid Preferred Dividends of $5 million
  • Its Common Shareholders’ Equity was $100 million at the start of 2023 and $150 million at the end

Plugging this into the formula:

ROCE = ($50 million - $5 million) / ($100 million + $150 million) / 2  
      = $45 million / $125 million
      = 36%

So Company A generated a 36% Return on Common Shareholders’ Equity in 2023.

Interpreting Return on Common Equity

Generally, a higher ROCE is better since it indicates the company is efficiently utilizing capital from common shareholders to drive profits. However, ROCE should be assessed in relation to peers and competitors.

Industry averages for ROCE:

  • Software/IT services: 30-50%
  • Consumer goods: 15-25%
  • Automotive: 10-20%
  • Utilities: 5-15%

A company with ROCE much higher than industry average may have unsustainable profit growth. While a lower ROCE could signal poor capital allocation by management.

ROCE should also be viewed in context of revenue growth, capital expenditure, debt levels and economic conditions to get an accurate picture of financial health and earnings quality.

Using ROCE for Analysis

Here are some ways ROCE is useful for analysis:

1. Assess management’s capital allocation skills

A rising ROCE over time indicates efficient reinvestment of profits to drive growth. Declining ROCE signals inability of management to allocate capital properly.

2. Compare companies within an industry

ROCE makes it easy to benchmark how well a company utilizes shareholders’ equity against competitors. Firms with higher ROCE tend to be more shareholder-friendly.

3. Forecast dividend payouts

High ROCE enables companies to pay steady and rising dividends from excess profits. It serves as a good indicator for income investors.

4. Estimate future profit growth

Within reason, past ROCE trends can be used to project future earnings growth and shareholder returns for a company.

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Limitations of Using ROCE

While ROCE is an important metric, it has some limitations:

  • It can be manipulated in the short term through aggressive accounting policies, share buybacks, asset write-downs etc. So focus should be on long-term ROCE.
  • It varies widely across industries, so comparisons should be made only between similar companies.
  • Does not account for cost of capital. A company can have a high ROCE but still not create value if cost of equity is even higher.
  • Ignores capital structure. A risky high-debt firm can show inflated ROCE not representative of business economics.

Tips to Improve ROCE

Here are some tips companies can use to improve their Return on Common Equity:

1. Increase profits margins through better cost control and efficiency gains. This directly boosts ROCE.

2. Optimise capital structure to balance cost of debt vs equity financing. This reduces overall cost of capital.

3. Allocate capital to high return projects that drive growth in profits and shareholder value.

4. Consider share buybacks instead of dividends if shares are undervalued. This increases earnings per share and ROCE.

5. Reduce excess cash piles that earn low returns. Invest in growth opportunities or return cash to shareholders.

6. Write-down or sell off poor performing assets dragging down overall returns on capital employed.

Return On Common Stockholders Equity Ratio Conclusion

In summary, Return on Common Shareholders’ Equity is an important metric to assess how well a company utilizes capital invested by common stock owners to drive profits and returns.

It serves as an indicator of management’s prowess in allocating capital. As well as the company’s ability to sustain dividends and earnings growth.

However, ROCE should not be viewed in isolation. It works best in comparative analysis against competitors and when assessing long-term performance. Used prudently, ROCE allows investors to pick companies with shareholder-friendly management and superior profitability.

Author: Dominic Walsh

I am a highly regarded trader, author & coach with over 16 years of experience trading financial markets. Today I am recognized by many as a forex strategy developer. After starting blogging in 2014, I became one of the world's most widely followed forex trading coaches, with a monthly readership of more than 40,000 traders! Make sure to follow me on social media: Instagram | Facebook | Linkedin | Youtube| Twitter | Pinterest | Medium | Quora | Reddit | Telegram Channel

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