Like a puppy chasing its tail, some new investors often chase 'the next big thing', even if that means buying 'story stocks' without revenue, let alone profit. But as Peter Lynch said in One Up On Wall Street, 'Long shots almost never pay off.'
In the age of tech-stock blue-sky investing, my choice may seem old fashioned; I still prefer profitable companies like Grainger (LON:GRI). While profit is not necessarily a social good, it's easy to admire a business that can consistently produce it. In comparison, loss making companies act like a sponge for capital - but unlike such a sponge they do not always produce something when squeezed.
Grainger's Improving Profits
Even modest earnings per share growth (EPS) can create meaningful value, when it is sustained reliably from year to year. So EPS growth can certainly encourage an investor to take note of a stock. Like a firecracker arcing through the night sky, Grainger's EPS shot from UK£0.11 to UK£0.20, over the last year. You don't see 78% year-on-year growth like that, very often.
I like to take a look at earnings before interest and (EBIT) tax margins, as well as revenue growth, to get another take on the quality of the company's growth. I note that Grainger's revenue from operations was lower than its revenue in the last twelve months, so that could distort my analysis of its margins. While Grainger did well to grow revenue over the last year, EBIT margins were dampened at the same time. So if EBIT margins can stabilize, this top-line growth should pay off for shareholders.
In the chart below, you can see how the company has grown earnings, and revenue, over time. For finer detail, click on the image.
You don't drive with your eyes on the rear-view mirror, so you might be more interested in this free report showing analyst forecasts for Grainger's future profits.
Are Grainger Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
As a general rule, I think it worth considering how much the CEO is paid, since unreasonably high rates could be considered against the interests of shareholders. I discovered that the median total compensation for the CEOs of companies like Grainger with market caps between UK£1.6b and UK£5.1b is about UK£2.4m.
Grainger offered total compensation worth UK£1.6m to its CEO in the year to . That seems pretty reasonable, especially given its below the median for similar sized companies. While the level of CEO compensation isn't a huge factor in my view of the company, modest remuneration is a positive, because it suggests that the board keeps shareholder interests in mind. It can also be a sign of good governance, more generally.
Should You Add Grainger To Your Watchlist?
Grainger's earnings per share growth have been levitating higher, like a mountain goat scaling the Alps. Such fast EPS growth makes me wonder if the business has hit an inflection point (and I mean the good kind.) At the same time the reasonable CEO compensation reflects well on the board of directors. While I couldn't be sure without a deeper dive, it does seem that Grainger has the hallmarks of a quality business; and that would make it well worth watching. It's still necessary to consider the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 3 warning signs with Grainger (at least 1 which is a bit concerning) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
You can invest in any company you want. But if you prefer to focus on stocks that have demonstrated insider buying, here is a list of companies with insider buying in the last three months.
Please note the insider transactions discussed in this article refer to reportable transactions in the relevant jurisdiction.
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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.