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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 as Peter Lynch said in One Up On Wall Street, 'Long shots almost never pay off.'
So if you're like me, you might be more interested in profitable, growing companies, like American Assets Trust (NYSE:AAT). While that doesn't make the shares worth buying at any price, you can't deny that successful capitalism requires profit, eventually. 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.
American Assets Trust's Earnings Per Share Are Growing.
The market is a voting machine in the short term, but a weighing machine in the long term, so share price follows earnings per share (EPS) eventually. That means EPS growth is considered a real positive by most successful long-term investors. We can see that in the last three years American Assets Trust grew its EPS by 5.5% per year. That might not be particularly high growth, but it does show that per-share earnings are moving steadily in the right direction.
One way to double-check a company's growth is to look at how its revenue, and earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) margins are changing. I note that American Assets Trust's revenue from operations was lower than its revenue in the last twelve months, so that could distort my analysis of its margins. The good news is that American Assets Trust is growing revenues, and EBIT margins improved by 6.6 percentage points to 31%, over the last year. Ticking those two boxes is a good sign of growth, in my book.
You can take a look at the company's revenue and earnings growth trend, in the chart below. Click on the chart to see the exact numbers.
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 American Assets Trust.
Are American Assets Trust Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
I like company leaders to have some skin in the game, so to speak, because it increases alignment of incentives between the people running the business, and its true owners. So it is good to see that American Assets Trust insiders have a significant amount of capital invested in the stock. Indeed, they have a glittering mountain of wealth invested in it, currently valued at US$312m. This suggests to me that leadership will be very mindful of shareholders' interests when making decisions!
It means a lot to see insiders invested in the business, but I find myself wondering if remuneration policies are shareholder friendly. A brief analysis of the CEO compensation suggests they are. I discovered that the median total compensation for the CEOs of companies like American Assets Trust with market caps between US$2.0b and US$6.4b is about US$4.9m.
The American Assets Trust CEO received US$3.9m in compensation for the year ending 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.
Does American Assets Trust Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?
One important encouraging feature of American Assets Trust is that it is growing profits. The fact that EPS is growing is a genuine positive for American Assets Trust, but the pretty picture gets better than that. Boasting both modest CEO pay and considerable insider ownership, I'd argue this one is worthy of the watchlist, at least. One of Buffett's considerations when discussing businesses is if they are capital light or capital intensive. Generally, a company with a high return on equity is capital light, and can thus fund growth more easily. So you might want to check this graph comparing American Assets Trust's ROE with industry peers (and the market at large).
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
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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