For beginners, it can seem like a good idea (and an exciting prospect) to buy a company that tells a good story to investors, even if it completely lacks a track record of revenue and profit. And in their study titled Who Falls Prey to the Wolf of Wall Street?' Leuz et. al. found that it is 'quite common' for investors to lose money by buying into 'pump and dump' schemes.
In the age of tech-stock blue-sky investing, my choice may seem old fashioned; I still prefer profitable companies like ACNB (NASDAQ:ACNB). Now, I'm not saying that the stock is necessarily undervalued today; but I can't shake an appreciation for the profitability of the business itself. Conversely, a loss-making company is yet to prove itself with profit, and eventually the sweet milk of external capital may run sour.
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How Quickly Is ACNB Increasing Earnings Per Share?
As one of my mentors once told me, share price follows earnings per share (EPS). Therefore, there are plenty of investors who like to buy shares in companies that are growing EPS. As a tree reaches steadily for the sky, ACNB's EPS has grown 21% each year, compound, over three years. As a general rule, we'd say that if a company can keep up that sort of growth, shareholders will be smiling.
Careful consideration of revenue growth and earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT) margins can help inform a view on the sustainability of the recent profit growth. Not all of ACNB's revenue this year is revenue from operations, so keep in mind the revenue and margin numbers I've used might not be the best representation of the underlying business. ACNB maintained stable EBIT margins over the last year, all while growing revenue 12% to US$73m. That's progress.
In the chart below, you can see how the company has grown earnings, and revenue, over time. For finer detail, click on the image.
ACNB isn't a huge company, given its market capitalization of US$267m. That makes it extra important to check on its balance sheet strength.
Are ACNB 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 ACNB with market caps between US$100m and US$400m is about US$1.1m.
The ACNB CEO received total compensation of just US$558k in the year to December 2018. That's clearly well below average, so at a glance, that arrangement seems generous to shareholders, and points to a modest remuneration culture. 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. I'd also argue reasonable pay levels attest to good decision making more generally.
Should You Add ACNB To Your Watchlist?
You can't deny that ACNB has grown its earnings per share at a very impressive rate. That's attractive. The fast growth bodes well while the very reasonable CEO pay assists builds some confidence in the board. So I'd venture it may well deserve a spot on your watchlist, or even a little further research. Now, you could try to make up your mind on ACNB by focusing on just these factors, or you could also consider how its price-to-earnings ratio compares to other companies in its industry.
Of course, you can do well (sometimes) buying stocks that are not growing earnings and do not have insiders buying shares. But as a growth investor I always like to check out companies that do have those features. You can access a free list of them here.
Please note the insider transactions discussed in this article refer to reportable transactions in the relevant jurisdiction
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