Investing in carsales.com (ASX:CAR) five years ago would have delivered you a 100% gain

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It hasn’t been the best quarter for carsales.com Ltd (ASX:CAR) shareholders, since the share price has fallen 10% in that time. While that’s not great, the returns over five years have been decent. The share price is up 71%, which is better than the market return of 61%.

So let’s investigate and see if the longer term performance of the company has been in line with the underlying business’ progress.

See our latest analysis for carsales.com

To paraphrase Benjamin Graham: Over the short term the market is a voting machine, but over the long term it’s a weighing machine. 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 five years of share price growth, carsales.com achieved compound earnings per share (EPS) growth of 3.2% per year. This EPS growth is lower than the 11% average annual increase in the share price. So it’s fair to assume the market has a higher opinion of the business than it did five years ago. That’s not necessarily surprising considering the five-year track record of earnings growth.

The graphic below depicts how EPS has changed over time (unveil the exact values by clicking on the image).

earnings-per-share-growth

We like that insiders have been buying shares in the last twelve months. Having said that, most people consider earnings and revenue growth trends to be a more meaningful guide to the business. Dive deeper into the earnings by checking this interactive graph of carsales.com’s earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What About Dividends?

It is important to consider the total shareholder return, as well as the share price return, for any given stock. The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. In the case of carsales.com, it has a TSR of 100% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.

A Different Perspective

carsales.com shareholders gained a total return of 9.1% during the year. But that return falls short of the market. If we look back over five years, the returns are even better, coming in at 15% per year for five years. Maybe the share price is just taking a breather while the business executes on its growth strategy. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. Case in point: We’ve spotted 2 warning signs for carsales.com 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.

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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 account of 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.