Shortly after the onset of the pandemic, many companies opted to discontinue providing quarterly EPS guidance for the remainder of 2020. A McKinsey article says that companies thinking about providing that guidance in 2021 may want to think again:
McKinsey compared the market performance of companies that offer quarterly earnings guidance with the performance of those that don’t. It found that the companies that did not provide EPS guidance did not generate lower total returns to shareholders (TRS). That same body of research revealed no difference in TRS between companies that regularly met the earnings consensus and those that occasionally missed it.
Lower TRS occurred only if companies missed consensus consistently over several quarters because of systematically lower performance. Further, McKinsey research showed that only 13 percent of investors surveyed thought that consistently beating EPS estimates was important for assessing a potential investment.
What’s the harm, then, in providing quarterly earnings guidance if investors don’t weigh such information heavily? One potential problem is the overemphasis of quarterly earnings to evaluate management teams’ performance, which can create unnecessary noise in corporate boardrooms. More important, EPS-focused companies are known to implement actions to “meet the number”—deferring investments or cutting costs excessively, for instance.
McKinsey’s views on quarterly guidance echo those of many business and investor groups. Instead of returning to the practice of providing quarterly EPS guidance, McKinsey says that the better approach is to provide long-term guidance, and that “For most companies, this would mean providing three-year targets (at a minimum) for revenue growth, margins, and return on capital.”
-John Jenkins, TheCorporateCounsel.net April 8, 2021