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Some have more dollars than sense, they say, so even companies that have no revenue, no profit, and a record of falling short, can easily find investors. 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.
In the age of tech-stock blue-sky investing, my choice may seem old fashioned; I still prefer profitable companies like Winmark (NASDAQ:WINA). Even if the shares are fully valued today, most capitalists would recognize its profits as the demonstration of steady value generation. Loss-making companies are always racing against time to reach financial sustainability, but time is often a friend of the profitable company, especially if it is growing.
How Fast Is Winmark 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 Winmark grew its EPS by 16% per year. That growth rate is fairly good, assuming the company can keep it up. It's also worth noting that the EPS growth has been assisted by share buybacks, indicating the company is in a position to return capital to shareholders.
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. It seems Winmark is pretty stable, since revenue and EBIT margins are pretty flat year on year. That's not a major concern but nor does it point to the long term growth we like to see.
In the chart below, you can see how the company has grown earnings, and revenue, over time. For finer detail, click on the image.
While it's always good to see growing profits, you should always remember that a weak balance sheet could come back to bite. So check Winmark's balance sheet strength, before getting too excited.
Are Winmark 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. As a result, I'm encouraged by the fact that insiders own Winmark shares worth a considerable sum. Indeed, they have a glittering mountain of wealth invested in it, currently valued at US$232m. That equates to 32% of the company, making insiders powerful and aligned with other shareholders. So it might be my imagination, but I do sense the glimmer of an opportunity.
It's good to see that insiders are invested in the company, but are remuneration levels reasonable? 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 Winmark with market caps between US$400m and US$1.6b is about US$2.6m.
The Winmark CEO received total compensation of just US$950k 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 compensation is hardly the most important aspect of a company to consider, but when its reasonable that does give me a little more confidence that leadership are looking out for shareholder interests. It can also be a sign of a culture of integrity, in a broader sense.
Does Winmark Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?
One important encouraging feature of Winmark is that it is growing profits. The fact that EPS is growing is a genuine positive for Winmark, 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. Now, you could try to make up your mind on Winmark by focusing on just these factors, or you could also consider how its price-to-earnings ratio compares to other companies in its industry.
Although Winmark certainly looks good to me, I would like it more if insiders were buying up shares. If you like to see insider buying, too, then this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying, could be exactly what you're looking for.
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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