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. Unfortunately, high risk investments often have little probability of ever paying off, and many investors pay a price to learn their lesson.
In contrast to all that, I prefer to spend time on companies like Heartland Express (NASDAQ:HTLD), which has not only revenues, but also profits. While profit is not necessarily a social good, it's easy to admire a business than can consistently produce it. 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 Fast Is Heartland Express Growing?
As one of my mentors once told me, share price follows earnings per share (EPS). That means EPS growth is considered a real positive by most successful long-term investors. Heartland Express managed to grow EPS by 10% per year, over three years. That's a pretty good rate, if the company can sustain it.
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). Unfortunately, Heartland Express's revenue dropped 12% last year, but the silver lining is that EBIT margins improved from 5.4% to 13%. That falls short of ideal.
The chart below shows how the company's bottom and top lines have progressed 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 Heartland Express's forecast profits?
Are Heartland Express Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
It makes me feel more secure owning shares in a company if insiders also own shares, thusly more closely aligning our interests. As a result, I'm encouraged by the fact that insiders own Heartland Express shares worth a considerable sum. Indeed, they hold US$23m worth of its stock. That's a lot of money, and no small incentive to work hard. Even though that's only about 1.4% of the company, it's enough money to indicate alignment between the leaders of the business and ordinary shareholders.
It's good to see that insiders are invested in the company, but are remuneration levels reasonable? A brief analysis of the CEO compensation suggests they are. For companies with market capitalizations between US$1.0b and US$3.2b, like Heartland Express, the median CEO pay is around US$4.0m.
The CEO of Heartland Express only received US$706k in total compensation for the year ending December 2018. That looks like modest pay to me, and may hint at a certain respect for the interests of shareholders. CEO remuneration levels are not the most important metric for investors, but when the pay is modest, that does support enhanced alignment between the CEO and the ordinary shareholders. It can also be a sign of a culture of integrity, in a broader sense.
Is Heartland Express Worth Keeping An Eye On?
One important encouraging feature of Heartland Express is that it is growing profits. Earnings growth might be the main game for Heartland Express, but the fun does not stop there. Boasting both modest CEO pay and considerable insider ownership, I'd argue this one is worthy of the watchlist, at least. Of course, just because Heartland Express 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.
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
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