For beginners, it can seem like a good idea (and an exciting prospect) to buy a company that tells a good story to investors, even if it completely lacks a track record of revenue and profit. But as Peter Lynch said in One Up On Wall Street, 'Long shots almost never pay off.'
In contrast to all that, I prefer to spend time on companies like Algonquin Power & Utilities (TSE:AQN), which has not only revenues, but also profits. Now, I'm not saying that the stock is necessarily undervalued today; but I can't shake an appreciation for the profitability of the business itself. Conversely, a loss-making company is yet to prove itself with profit, and eventually the sweet milk of external capital may run sour.
Algonquin Power & Utilities's Earnings Per Share Are Growing.
As one of my mentors once told me, share price follows earnings per share (EPS). It's no surprise, then, that I like to invest in companies with EPS growth. Who among us would not applaud Algonquin Power & Utilities's stratospheric annual EPS growth of 49%, compound, 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.
Careful consideration of revenue growth and earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT) margins can help inform a view on the sustainability of the recent profit growth. Algonquin Power & Utilities reported flat revenue and EBIT margins over the last year. That's not bad, but it doesn't point to ongoing future growth, either.
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.
Fortunately, we've got access to analyst forecasts of Algonquin Power & Utilities's future profits. You can do your own forecasts without looking, or you can take a peek at what the professionals are predicting.
Are Algonquin Power & Utilities Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
We would not expect to see insiders owning a large percentage of a CA$9.8b company like Algonquin Power & Utilities. But we do take comfort from the fact that they are investors in the company. Indeed, they hold US$54m worth of its stock. That's a lot of money, and no small incentive to work hard. Despite being just 0.6% of the company, the value of that investment is enough to show insiders have plenty riding on the venture.
It's good to see that insiders are invested in the company, but are remuneration levels reasonable? Well, based on the CEO pay, I'd say they are indeed. I discovered that the median total compensation for the CEOs of companies like Algonquin Power & Utilities with market caps between CA$5.2b and CA$16b is about CA$4.9m.
Algonquin Power & Utilities offered total compensation worth US$4.4m to its CEO in the year to December 2018. That seems pretty reasonable, especially given its below the median for similar sized companies. 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.
Should You Add Algonquin Power & Utilities To Your Watchlist?
Algonquin Power & Utilities's earnings have taken off like any random crypto-currency did, back in 2017. The cherry on top is that insiders own a bucket-load of shares, and the CEO pay seems really quite reasonable. The strong EPS improvement suggests the businesses is humming along. Algonquin Power & Utilities certainly ticks a few of my boxes, so I think it's probably well worth further consideration. While we've looked at the quality of the earnings, we haven't yet done any work to value the stock. So if you like to buy cheap, you may want to check if Algonquin Power & Utilities is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to 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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