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Some have more dollars than sense, they say, so even companies that have no revenue, no profit, and a record of falling short, can easily find investors. 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.
So if you're like me, you might be more interested in profitable, growing companies, like IDP Education (ASX:IEL). 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. Loss-making companies are always racing against time to reach financial sustainability, but time is often a friend of the profitable company, especially if it is growing.
How Quickly Is IDP Education Increasing Earnings Per Share?
The market is a voting machine in the short term, but a weighing machine in the long term, so share price follows earnings per share (EPS) eventually. That makes EPS growth an attractive quality for any company. As a tree reaches steadily for the sky, IDP Education's EPS has grown 21% each year, compound, over three years. This has no doubt fuelled the optimism that sees the stock trading on a high multiple of earnings.
I like to see top-line growth as an indication that growth is sustainable, and I look for a high earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT) margin to point to a competitive moat (though some companies with low margins also have moats). IDP Education maintained stable EBIT margins over the last year, all while growing revenue 23% to AU$549m. That's progress.
The chart below shows how the company's bottom and top lines have progressed over time. To see the actual numbers, click on the chart.
Of course the knack is to find stocks that have their best days in the future, not in the past. You could base your opinion on past performance, of course, but you may also want to check this interactive graph of professional analyst EPS forecasts for IDP Education.
Are IDP Education Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
I always like to check up on CEO compensation, because I think that reasonable pay levels, around or below the median, can be a sign that shareholder interests are well considered. I discovered that the median total compensation for the CEOs of companies like IDP Education with market caps between AU$2.9b and AU$9.3b is about AU$3.4m.
The IDP Education CEO received AU$2.5m in compensation for the year ending June 2018. 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.
Does IDP Education Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?
You can't deny that IDP Education has grown its earnings per share at a very impressive rate. That's attractive. With swiftly growing earnings, it probably has its best days ahead, and the modest CEO pay suggests the company is careful with cash. So I'd argue this is the kind of stock worth watching, even if it isn't great value today. Another important measure of business quality not discussed here, is return on equity (ROE). Click on this link to see how IDP Education shapes up to industry peers, when it comes to ROE.
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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