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. 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 SBS Transit (SGX:S61). While that doesn't make the shares worth buying at any price, you can't deny that successful capitalism requires profit, eventually. Conversely, a loss-making company is yet to prove itself with profit, and eventually the sweet milk of external capital may run sour.
SBS Transit's Earnings Per Share Are Growing.
If a company can keep growing earnings per share (EPS) long enough, its share price will eventually follow. It's no surprise, then, that I like to invest in companies with EPS growth. I, for one, am blown away by the fact that SBS Transit has grown EPS by 55% per year, over the last three years. While that sort of growth rate isn't sustainable for long, it certainly catches my attention; like a crow with a sparkly stone.
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. While we note SBS Transit's EBIT margins were flat over the last year, revenue grew by a solid 6.1% to S$1.4b. That's progress.
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.
While it's always good to see growing profits, you should always remember that a weak balance sheet could come back to bite. So check SBS Transit's balance sheet strength, before getting too excited.
Are SBS Transit 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 SBS Transit with market caps between S$539m and S$2.2b is about S$1.2m.
The CEO of SBS Transit was paid just S$48k in total compensation for the year ending December 2018. You could consider this pay as somewhat symbolic, which suggests the CEO does not need a lot of compensation to stay motivated. 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 SBS Transit To Your Watchlist?
SBS Transit's earnings have taken off like any random crypto-currency did, back in 2017. 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 SBS Transit has the hallmarks of a quality business; and that would make it well worth watching. Now, you could try to make up your mind on SBS Transit 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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