Like a puppy chasing its tail, some new investors often chase 'the next big thing', even if that means buying 'story stocks' without revenue, let alone profit. But as Peter Lynch said in One Up On Wall Street, 'Long shots almost never pay off.'
So if you're like me, you might be more interested in profitable, growing companies, like Accenture (NYSE:ACN). Now, I'm not saying that the stock is necessarily undervalued today; but I can't shake an appreciation for the profitability of the business itself. While a well funded company may sustain losses for years, unless its owners have an endless appetite for subsidizing the customer, it will need to generate a profit eventually, or else breathe its last breath.
Accenture's Improving Profits
Even with very modest growth rates, a company will usually do well if it improves earnings per share (EPS) year after year. So EPS growth can certainly encourage an investor to take note of a stock. It's good to see that Accenture's EPS have grown from US$6.64 to US$7.63 over twelve months. That's a 15% gain; respectable growth in the broader scheme of things.
I like to see top-line growth as an indication that growth is sustainable, and I look for a high earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT) margin to point to a competitive moat (though some companies with low margins also have moats). While we note Accenture's EBIT margins were flat over the last year, revenue grew by a solid 5.4% to US$44b. 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.
While we live in the present moment at all times, there's no doubt in my mind that the future matters more than the past. So why not check this interactive chart depicting future EPS estimates, for Accenture?
Are Accenture Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
We would not expect to see insiders owning a large percentage of a US$132b company like Accenture. But we are reassured by the fact they have invested in the company. Notably, they have an enormous stake in the company, worth US$182m. 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's good to see that insiders are invested in the company, but are remuneration levels reasonable? A brief analysis of the CEO compensation suggests they are. For companies with market capitalizations over US$8.0b, like Accenture, the median CEO pay is around US$11m.
The Accenture CEO received US$6.3m in compensation for the year ending August 2019. 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 Accenture Worth Keeping An Eye On?
One important encouraging feature of Accenture is that it is growing profits. Earnings growth might be the main game for Accenture, 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. Once you've identified a business you like, the next step is to consider what you think it's worth. And right now is your chance to view our exclusive discounted cashflow valuation of Accenture. You might benefit from giving it a glance today.
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
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