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Should You Be Adding Oil Search (ASX:OSH) To Your Watchlist Today?

Simply Wall St

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It's only natural that many investors, especially those who are new to the game, prefer to buy shares in 'sexy' stocks with a good story, even if those businesses lose money. 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 Oil Search (ASX:OSH). While that doesn't make the shares worth buying at any price, you can't deny that successful capitalism requires profit, eventually. 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.

See our latest analysis for Oil Search

Oil Search's Improving Profits

Over the last three years, Oil Search has grown earnings per share (EPS) like young bamboo after rain; fast, and from a low base. So I don't think the percent growth rate is particularly meaningful. As a result, I'll zoom in on growth over the last year, instead. It's good to see that Oil Search's EPS have grown from US$0.20 to US$0.22 over twelve months. That's a 13% gain; respectable growth in the broader scheme of things.

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). The good news is that Oil Search is growing revenues, and EBIT margins improved by 2.8 percentage points to 47%, over the last year. That's great to see, on both counts.

You can take a look at the company's revenue and earnings growth trend, in the chart below. For finer detail, click on the image.

ASX:OSH Income Statement, June 12th 2019

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 Oil Search's future profits.

Are Oil Search Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?

Like standing at the lookout, surveying the horizon at sunrise, insider buying, for some investors, sparks joy. Because oftentimes, the purchase of stock is a sign that the buyer views it as undervalued. However, small purchases are not always indicative of conviction, and insiders don't always get it right.

Oil Search top brass are certainly in sync, not having sold any shares, over the last year. But my excitement comes from the US$84k that Non-Executive Director Kostas Constantinou spent buying shares (at an average price of about US$8.36).

On top of the insider buying, it's good to see that Oil Search insiders have a valuable investment in the business. Given insiders own a small fortune of shares, currently valued at US$85m, they have plenty of motivation to push the business to succeed. This should keep them focused on creating long term value for shareholders.

Is Oil Search Worth Keeping An Eye On?

As I already mentioned, Oil Search is a growing business, which is what I like to see. On top of that, we've seen insiders buying shares even though they already own plenty. That makes the company a prime candidate for my watchlist - and arguably a research priority. If you think Oil Search might suit your style as an investor, you could go straight to its annual report, or you could first check our discounted cash flow (DCF) valuation for the company.

The good news is that Oil Search is not the only growth stock with insider buying. Here's a a list of them... 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

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.