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.
In contrast to all that, I prefer to spend time on companies like Pennon Group (LON:PNN), which has not only revenues, but also profits. While profit is not necessarily a social good, it's easy to admire a business than can consistently produce it. 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 Quickly Is Pennon Group Increasing Earnings Per Share?
If you believe that markets are even vaguely efficient, then over the long term you'd expect a company's share price to follow its earnings per share (EPS). Therefore, there are plenty of investors who like to buy shares in companies that are growing EPS. Over the last three years, Pennon Group has grown EPS by 11% per year. That's a good rate of growth, if it can be sustained.
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. Pennon Group maintained stable EBIT margins over the last year, all while growing revenue 5.9% to UK£1.5b. That's a real positive.
In the chart below, you can see how the company has grown earnings, and revenue, over time. To see the actual numbers, click on the chart.
You don't drive with your eyes on the rear-view mirror, so you might be more interested in this free report showing analyst forecasts for Pennon Group's future profits.
Are Pennon Group Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
Like that fresh smell in the air when the rains are coming, insider buying fills me with optimistic anticipation. That's because insider buying often indicates that those closest to the company have confidence that the share price will perform well. However, insiders are sometimes wrong, and we don't know the exact thinking behind their acquisitions.
The good news for Pennon Group shareholders is that no insiders reported selling shares in the last year. With that in mind, it's heartening that Gill Rider, the Senior Independent Director of the company, paid UK£18k for shares at around UK£7.07 each.
It's me that Pennon Group insiders are buying the stock, but that's not the only reason to think leader are fair to shareholders. Specifically, the CEO is paid quite reasonably for a company of this size. I discovered that the median total compensation for the CEOs of companies like Pennon Group with market caps between UK£1.6b and UK£5.0b is about UK£1.8m.
Pennon Group offered total compensation worth UK£1.4m to its CEO in the year to March 2019. That comes in below the average for similar sized companies, and seems pretty reasonable to me. 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 Pennon Group Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?
One positive for Pennon Group is that it is growing EPS. That's nice to see. Like chocolate chips in vanilla ice cream, the insider buying, and modest CEO pay, make it better. If that doesn't automatically earn it a spot on your watchlist then I'd posit it warrants a closer look at the very least. If you think Pennon Group 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.
There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. So if you like the sound of Pennon Group, you'll probably love this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.
Please note the insider transactions discussed in this article refer to reportable transactions in the relevant jurisdiction
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