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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 the reality is that when a company loses money each year, for long enough, its investors will usually take their share of those losses.
If, on the other hand, you like companies that have revenue, and even earn profits, then you may well be interested in York Water (NASDAQ:YORW). Even if the shares are fully valued today, most capitalists would recognize its profits as the demonstration of steady value generation. While a well funded company may sustain losses for years, unless its owners have an endless appetite for subsidizing the customer, it will need to generate a profit eventually, or else breathe its last breath.
York Water's Improving Profits
Even modest earnings per share growth (EPS) can create meaningful value, when it is sustained reliably from year to year. So EPS growth can certainly encourage an investor to take note of a stock. York Water has grown its trailing twelve month EPS from US$1.01 to US$1.05, in the last year. That amounts to a small improvement of 4.2%.
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). York Water reported flat revenue and EBIT margins over the last year. That's not bad, but it doesn't point to ongoing future growth, either.
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 York Water.
Are York Water Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
Like the kids in the streets standing up for their beliefs, insider share purchases give me reason to believe in a brighter future. This view is based on the possibility that stock purchases signal bullishness on behalf of the buyer. However, small purchases are not always indicative of conviction, and insiders don't always get it right.
Over the last 12 months York Water insiders spent US$166k more buying shares than they received from selling them. Although I don't particularly like to see selling, the fact that they put more capital in, than they extracted, is a positive in my mind. We also note that it was the President, Jeffrey Hines, who made the biggest single acquisition, paying US$17k for shares at about US$30.55 each.
I do like that insiders have been buying shares in York Water, but there is more evidence of shareholder friendly management. I refer to the very reasonable level of CEO pay. For companies with market capitalizations between US$200m and US$800m, like York Water, the median CEO pay is around US$1.8m.
The York Water CEO received total compensation of just US$362k in the year to December 2018. That looks like modest pay to me, and may hint at a certain respect for the interests of shareholders. CEO compensation is hardly the most important aspect of a company to consider, but when its reasonable that does give me a little more confidence that leadership are looking out for shareholder interests. It can also be a sign of good governance, more generally.
Does York Water Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?
One important encouraging feature of York Water is that it is growing profits. And that's not all, folks. We've also seen insiders buying stock, and noted modest executive pay. The sum of all that, for me, points to a quality business, and a genuine prospect for further research. Of course, just because York Water is growing does not mean it is undervalued. If you're wondering about the valuation, check out this gauge of its price-to-earnings ratio, as compared to its industry.
As a growth investor I do like to see insider buying. But York Water isn't the only one. You can see a 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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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.