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The past year for Liberty Financial Group (ASX:LFG) investors has not been profitable

Passive investing in an index fund is a good way to ensure your own returns roughly match the overall market. But if you buy individual stocks, you can do both better or worse than that. For example, the Liberty Financial Group Limited (ASX:LFG) share price is down 31% in the last year. That contrasts poorly with the market return of 6.7%. Because Liberty Financial Group has not been listed for many years, the market is still learning about how the business performs.

It’s worthwhile assessing if the company’s economics have been moving in lockstep with these underwhelming shareholder returns, or if there is some disparity between the two. So let’s do just that.

See our latest analysis for Liberty Financial Group

While the efficient markets hypothesis continues to be taught by some, it has been proven that markets are over-reactive dynamic systems, and investors are not always rational. One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.

During the unfortunate twelve months during which the Liberty Financial Group share price fell, it actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) improve by 18%. It’s quite possible that growth expectations may have been unreasonable in the past.

It’s fair to say that the share price does not seem to be reflecting the EPS growth. So it’s easy to justify a look at some other metrics.

We don’t see any weakness in the Liberty Financial Group’s dividend so the steady payout can’t really explain the share price drop. From what we can see, revenue is pretty flat, so that doesn’t really explain the share price drop. Unless, of course, the market was expecting a revenue uptick.

The company’s revenue and earnings (over time) are depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).

earnings-and-revenue-growth

We know that Liberty Financial Group has improved its bottom line lately, but what does the future have in store? You can see what analysts are predicting for Liberty Financial Group in this interactive graph of future profit estimates.

What About Dividends?

As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. As it happens, Liberty Financial Group’s TSR for the last 1 year was -22%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. And there’s no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

While Liberty Financial Group shareholders are down 22% for the year (even including dividends), the market itself is up 6.7%. While the aim is to do better than that, it’s worth recalling that even great long-term investments sometimes underperform for a year or more. Putting aside the last twelve months, it’s good to see the share price has rebounded by 3.5%, in the last ninety days. This could just be a bounce because the selling was too aggressive, but fingers crossed it’s the start of a new trend. It’s always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand Liberty Financial Group better, we need to consider many other factors. For instance, we’ve identified 2 warning signs for Liberty Financial Group (1 shouldn’t be ignored) that you should be aware of.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email the editorial team (at) simplywallst.com.

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 into account 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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