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 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 Fulton Financial (NASDAQ:FULT). While profit is not necessarily a social good, it's easy to admire a business that can consistently produce it. Conversely, a loss-making company is yet to prove itself with profit, and eventually the sweet milk of external capital may run sour.
Fulton Financial'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. We can see that in the last three years Fulton Financial grew its EPS by 14% per year. That growth rate is fairly good, assuming the company can keep it up.
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. I note that Fulton Financial's revenue from operations was lower than its revenue in the last twelve months, so that could distort my analysis of its margins. While we note Fulton Financial's EBIT margins were flat over the last year, revenue grew by a solid 7.0% to US$834m. That's a real positive.
In the chart below, you can see how the company has grown earnings, and revenue, over time. For finer detail, click on the image.
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 Fulton Financial.
Are Fulton Financial Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
It makes me feel more secure owning shares in a company if insiders also own shares, thusly more closely aligning our interests. As a result, I'm encouraged by the fact that insiders own Fulton Financial shares worth a considerable sum. To be specific, they have US$30m worth of shares. That shows significant buy-in, and may indicate conviction in the business strategy. Even though that's only about 1.1% of the company, it's enough money to indicate alignment between the leaders of the business and ordinary shareholders.
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 Fulton Financial with market caps between US$2.0b and US$6.4b is about US$4.9m.
Fulton Financial offered total compensation worth US$2.8m to its CEO in the year to 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. I'd also argue reasonable pay levels attest to good decision making more generally.
Is Fulton Financial Worth Keeping An Eye On?
As I already mentioned, Fulton Financial is a growing business, which is what I like to see. Earnings growth might be the main game for Fulton Financial, but the fun does not stop there. With a meaningful level of insider ownership, and reasonable CEO pay, a reasonable mind might conclude that this is one stock worth watching. Of course, identifying quality businesses is only half the battle; investors need to know whether the stock is undervalued. So you might want to consider this free discounted cashflow valuation of Fulton Financial.
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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