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.
If, on the other hand, you like companies that have revenue, and even earn profits, then you may well be interested in Atmos Energy (NYSE:ATO). While that doesn't make the shares worth buying at any price, you can't deny that successful capitalism requires profit, eventually. In comparison, loss making companies act like a sponge for capital - but unlike such a sponge they do not always produce something when squeezed.
Atmos Energy's Earnings Per Share Are Growing.
If a company can keep growing earnings per share (EPS) long enough, its share price will eventually follow. Therefore, there are plenty of investors who like to buy shares in companies that are growing EPS. Over the last three years, Atmos Energy has grown EPS by 9.2% per year. That's a good rate of growth, if it can be sustained.
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. Atmos Energy's EBIT margins have actually improved by 3.3 percentage points in the last year, to reach 26%, but, on the flip side, revenue was down 6.6%. That falls short of ideal.
You can take a look at the company's revenue and earnings growth trend, in the chart below. 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 Atmos Energy's forecast profits?
Are Atmos Energy Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
Since Atmos Energy has a market capitalization of US$14b, 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. Notably, they have an enormous stake in the company, worth US$157m. I would find that kind of skin in the game quite encouraging, if I owned shares, since it would ensure that the leaders of the company would also experience my success, or failure, with the stock.
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 Atmos Energy, with market caps over US$8.0b, is about US$11m.
The Atmos Energy CEO received US$7.9m in compensation for the year ending September 2019. That seems pretty reasonable, especially given its below the median for similar sized companies. While the level of CEO compensation isn't a huge factor in my view of the company, modest remuneration is a positive, because it suggests that the board keeps shareholder interests in mind. I'd also argue reasonable pay levels attest to good decision making more generally.
Is Atmos Energy Worth Keeping An Eye On?
One positive for Atmos Energy is that it is growing EPS. That's nice to see. Earnings growth might be the main game for Atmos Energy, but the fun does not stop there. Boasting both modest CEO pay and considerable insider ownership, I'd argue this one is worthy of the watchlist, at least. 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 Atmos Energy 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.
We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Thank you for reading.