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.
So if you're like me, you might be more interested in profitable, growing companies, like Fortinet (NASDAQ:FTNT). While profit is not necessarily a social good, it's easy to admire a business that can consistently produce it. 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.
Fortinet's Improving Profits
In business, though not in life, profits are a key measure of success; and share prices tend to reflect earnings per share (EPS). So like the hint of a smile on a face that I love, growing EPS generally makes me look twice. You can imagine, then, that it almost knocked my socks off when I realized that Fortinet grew its EPS from US$0.71 to US$2.31, in one short year. When you see earnings grow that quickly, it often means good things ahead for the company. But the key is discerning whether something profound has changed, or if this is a just a one-off boost.
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. The good news is that Fortinet is growing revenues, and EBIT margins improved by 4.1 percentage points to 15%, over the last year. That's great to see, on both counts.
In the chart below, you can see how the company has grown earnings, and revenue, over time. For finer detail, click on the image.
In investing, as in life, the future matters more than the past. So why not check out this free interactive visualization of Fortinet's forecast profits?
Are Fortinet Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
Since Fortinet has a market capitalization of US$18b, we wouldn't expect insiders to hold a large percentage of shares. But we are reassured by the fact they have invested in the company. Indeed, they have a glittering mountain of wealth invested in it, currently valued at US$2.6b. Coming in at 14% of the business, that holding gives insiders a lot of influence, and plenty of reason to generate value for shareholders. Very encouraging.
It means a lot to see insiders invested in the business, but I find myself wondering if remuneration policies are shareholder friendly. 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 Fortinet, with market caps over US$8.0b, is about US$11m.
The Fortinet CEO received US$6.8m in compensation for the year ending December 2018. That comes in below the average for similar sized companies, and seems pretty reasonable to me. 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 good governance, more generally.
Does Fortinet Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?
Fortinet's earnings have taken off like any random crypto-currency did, back in 2017. The sweetener is that insiders have a mountain of stock, and the CEO remuneration is quite reasonable. The strong EPS improvement suggests the businesses is humming along. Fortinet 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 Fortinet is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative 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
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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