Investing in Middlefield Banc (NASDAQ:MBCN) three years ago would have delivered you a 39% gain

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Buying a low-cost index fund will get you the average market return. But if you invest in individual stocks, some are likely to underperform. For example, the Middlefield Banc Corp. (NASDAQ:MBCN) share price return of 28% over three years lags the market return in the same period. Zooming in, the stock is up a respectable 12% in the last year.

Now it’s worth having a look at the company’s fundamentals too, because that will help us determine if the long term shareholder return has matched the performance of the underlying business.

See our latest analysis for Middlefield Banc

While markets are a powerful pricing mechanism, share prices reflect investor sentiment, not just underlying business performance. One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company’s share price and its earnings per share (EPS).

During three years of share price growth, Middlefield Banc achieved compound earnings per share growth of 16% per year. The average annual share price increase of 9% is actually lower than the EPS growth. So one could reasonably conclude that the market has cooled on the stock. We’d venture the lowish P/E ratio of 8.34 also reflects the negative sentiment around the stock.

You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).

earnings-per-share-growth

We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Having said that, most people consider earnings and revenue growth trends to be a more meaningful guide to the business. This free interactive report on Middlefield Banc’s earnings, revenue and cash flow is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.

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. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. In the case of Middlefield Banc, it has a TSR of 39% for the last 3 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. And there’s no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

It’s nice to see that Middlefield Banc shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 15% over the last year. That’s including the dividend. Since the one-year TSR is better than the five-year TSR (the latter coming in at 5% per year), it would seem that the stock’s performance has improved in recent times. Given the share price momentum remains strong, it might be worth taking a closer look at the stock, lest you miss an opportunity. 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. Consider risks, for instance. Every company has them, and we’ve spotted 1 warning sign for Middlefield Banc you should know about.

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 US 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.