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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 Warren Buffett has mused, 'If you've been playing poker for half an hour and you still don't know who the patsy is, you're the patsy.' When they buy such story stocks, investors are all too often the patsy.
In the age of tech-stock blue-sky investing, my choice may seem old fashioned; I still prefer profitable companies like JD.com (NASDAQ:JD). Even if the shares are fully valued today, most capitalists would recognize its profits as the demonstration of steady value generation. Conversely, a loss-making company is yet to prove itself with profit, and eventually the sweet milk of external capital may run sour.
JD.com's Improving Profits
In a capitalist society capital chases profits, and that means share prices tend rise with earnings per share (EPS). So like the hint of a smile on a face that I love, growing EPS generally makes me look twice. It is therefore awe-striking that JD.com's EPS went from CN¥8.32 to CN¥32.70 in just one year. Even though that growth rate is unlikely to be repeated, that looks like a breakout improvement. Could this be a sign that the business has reached an inflection point?
One way to double-check a company's growth is to look at how its revenue, and earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) margins are changing. While we note JD.com's EBIT margins were flat over the last year, revenue grew by a solid 29% to CN¥746b. That's progress.
In the chart below, you can see how the company has grown earnings, and revenue, over time. Click on the chart to see the exact numbers.
In investing, as in life, the future matters more than the past. So why not check out this free interactive visualization of JD.com's forecast profits?
Are JD.com Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
We would not expect to see insiders owning a large percentage of a US$115b company like JD.com. But we are reassured by the fact they have invested in the company. Indeed, they have a glittering mountain of wealth invested in it, currently valued at CN¥17b. Coming in at 15% of the business, that holding gives insiders a lot of influence, and plenty of reason to generate value for shareholders. So it might be my imagination, but I do sense the glimmer of an opportunity.
Should You Add JD.com To Your Watchlist?
JD.com's earnings have taken off like any random crypto-currency did, back in 2017. That sort of growth is nothing short of eye-catching, and the large investment held by insiders certainly brightens my view of the company. The hope is, of course, that the strong growth marks a fundamental improvement in the business economics. So to my mind JD.com is worth putting on your watchlist; after all, shareholders do well when the market underestimates fast growing companies. Still, you should learn about the 4 warning signs we've spotted with JD.com (including 2 which make us uncomfortable) .
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.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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.
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