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. Unfortunately, high risk investments often have little probability of ever paying off, and many investors pay a price to learn their lesson.
In the age of tech-stock blue-sky investing, my choice may seem old fashioned; I still prefer profitable companies like AVX (NYSE:AVX). Even if the shares are fully valued today, most capitalists would recognize its profits as the demonstration of steady value generation. In comparison, loss making companies act like a sponge for capital - but unlike such a sponge they do not always produce something when squeezed.
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How Quickly Is AVX Increasing Earnings Per Share?
If you believe that markets are even vaguely efficient, then over the long term you'd expect a company's share price to follow its earnings per share (EPS). That means EPS growth is considered a real positive by most successful long-term investors. I, for one, am blown away by the fact that AVX has grown EPS by 39% per year, over the last three years. That sort of growth never lasts long, but like a shooting star it is well worth watching when it happens.
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. The good news is that AVX is growing revenues, and EBIT margins improved by 6.4 percentage points to 18%, 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.
While profitability drives the upside, prudent investors always check the balance sheet, too.
Are AVX 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 AVX with market caps between US$2.0b and US$6.4b is about US$5.2m.
The AVX CEO received total compensation of just US$1.1m in the year to March 2018. That's clearly well below average, so at a glance, that arrangement seems generous to shareholders, and points to a modest remuneration culture. 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. I'd also argue reasonable pay levels attest to good decision making more generally.
Is AVX Worth Keeping An Eye On?
AVX's earnings per share growth has been so hot recently that thinking about it is making me blush. With rocketing profits, its seems likely the business has a rosy future; and it may have hit an inflection point. Meanwhile, the very reasonable CEO pay reassures me a little, since it points to an absence profligacy. While I couldn't be sure without a deeper dive, it does seem that AVX has the hallmarks of a quality business; and that would make it well worth watching. Of course, just because AVX 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.
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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