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It's only natural that many investors, especially those who are new to the game, prefer to buy shares in 'sexy' stocks with a good story, even if those businesses lose money. But as Warren Buffett has mused, 'If you've been playing poker for half an hour and you still don't know who the patsy is, you're the patsy.' When they buy such story stocks, investors are all too often the patsy.
So if you're like me, you might be more interested in profitable, growing companies, like Natixis (EPA:KN). 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.
How Fast Is Natixis Growing?
If a company can keep growing earnings per share (EPS) long enough, its share price will eventually follow. That means EPS growth is considered a real positive by most successful long-term investors. It certainly is nice to see that Natixis has managed to grow EPS by 18% per year over three years. As a general rule, we'd say that if a company can keep up that sort of growth, shareholders will be smiling.
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. Not all of Natixis's revenue this year is revenue from operations, so keep in mind the revenue and margin numbers I've used might not be the best representation of the underlying business. While we note Natixis's EBIT margins were flat over the last year, revenue grew by a solid 7.2% to €10b. That's progress.
The chart below shows how the company's bottom and top lines have progressed over time. For finer detail, click on the image.
Fortunately, we've got access to analyst forecasts of Natixis's future profits. You can do your own forecasts without looking, or you can take a peek at what the professionals are predicting.
Are Natixis 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 Natixis, with market caps over €7.0b, is about €3.4m.
The Natixis CEO received total compensation of just €1.4m in the year to 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. I'd also argue reasonable pay levels attest to good decision making more generally.
Should You Add Natixis To Your Watchlist?
Given my belief that share price follows earnings per share you can easily imagine how I feel about Natixis's strong EPS growth. The fast growth bodes well while the very reasonable CEO pay assists builds some confidence in the board. So I'd argue this is the kind of stock worth watching, even if it isn't great value today. If you think Natixis might suit your style as an investor, you could go straight to its annual report, or you could first check our discounted cash flow (DCF) valuation for the company.
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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