Shareholders in Orion Engineered Carbons (NYSE:OEC) are in the red if they invested five years ago

For many, the main point of investing is to generate higher returns than the overall market. But every investor is virtually certain to have both over-performing and under-performing stocks. So we wouldn't blame long term Orion Engineered Carbons S.A. (NYSE:OEC) shareholders for doubting their decision to hold, with the stock down 21% over a half decade. The falls have accelerated recently, with the share price down 17% in the last three months.

Now let's have a look at the company's fundamentals, and see if the long term shareholder return has matched the performance of the underlying business.

See our latest analysis for Orion Engineered Carbons

While markets are a powerful pricing mechanism, share prices reflect investor sentiment, not just underlying business performance. One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.

During the unfortunate half decade during which the share price slipped, Orion Engineered Carbons actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) improve by 9.6% per year. So it doesn't seem like EPS is a great guide to understanding how the market is valuing the stock. Alternatively, growth expectations may have been unreasonable in the past.

Generally speaking we'd expect to see stronger share price increases on the back of sustained EPS growth, but other metrics may hold a clue to why the share price performance is relatively modest.

We don't think that the 0.5% is big factor in the share price, since it's quite small, as dividends go. Revenue is actually up 1.6% over the time period. A more detailed examination of the revenue and earnings may or may not explain why the share price languishes; there could be an opportunity.

You can see how earnings and revenue have changed over time in the image below (click on the chart to see the exact values).

earnings-and-revenue-growth
earnings-and-revenue-growth

It's probably worth noting we've seen significant insider buying in the last quarter, which we consider a positive. On the other hand, we think the revenue and earnings trends are much more meaningful measures of the business. You can see what analysts are predicting for Orion Engineered Carbons in this interactive graph of future profit estimates.

What About Dividends?

When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. 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. It's fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. As it happens, Orion Engineered Carbons' TSR for the last 5 years was -14%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!

A Different Perspective

While it's certainly disappointing to see that Orion Engineered Carbons shares lost 6.7% throughout the year, that wasn't as bad as the market loss of 18%. Given the total loss of 3% per year over five years, it seems returns have deteriorated in the last twelve months. Whilst Baron Rothschild does tell the investor "buy when there's blood in the streets, even if the blood is your own", buyers would need to examine the data carefully to be comfortable that the business itself is sound. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 3 warning signs with Orion Engineered Carbons (at least 2 which don't sit too well with us) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. You probably do not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email 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 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.

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