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 American Woodmark (NASDAQ:AMWD). Even if the shares are fully valued today, most capitalists would recognize its profits as the demonstration of steady value generation. In comparison, loss making companies act like a sponge for capital - but unlike such a sponge they do not always produce something when squeezed.
American Woodmark's Earnings Per Share Are Growing.
If a company can keep growing earnings per share (EPS) long enough, its share price will eventually follow. That means EPS growth is considered a real positive by most successful long-term investors. American Woodmark managed to grow EPS by 7.7% per year, over three years. While that sort of growth rate isn't amazing, it does show the business is growing.
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. While we note American Woodmark's EBIT margins were flat over the last year, revenue grew by a solid 17% to US$1.6b. That's progress.
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.
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 American Woodmark.
Are American Woodmark Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
Like that fresh smell in the air when the rains are coming, insider buying fills me with optimistic anticipation. This view is based on the possibility that stock purchases signal bullishness on behalf of the buyer. However, small purchases are not always indicative of conviction, and insiders don't always get it right.
In the last year insider at American Woodmark were both selling and buying shares; but happily, as a group they spent US$191k more on stock, than they netted from selling it. Although I don't particularly like to see selling, the fact that they put more capital in, than they extracted, is a positive in my mind. Zooming in, we can see that the biggest insider purchase was by Chairman S. Dunston for US$151k worth of shares, at about US$60.53 per share.
Along with the insider buying, another encouraging sign for American Woodmark is that insiders, as a group, have a considerable shareholding. Notably, they have an enormous stake in the company, worth US$125m. 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.
While insiders already own a significant amount of shares, and they have been buying more, the good news for ordinary shareholders does not stop there. The cherry on top is that the CEO, S. Dunston is paid comparatively modestly to CEOs at similar sized companies. I discovered that the median total compensation for the CEOs of companies like American Woodmark with market caps between US$1.0b and US$3.2b is about US$3.9m.
American Woodmark offered total compensation worth US$3.0m to its CEO in the year to April 2019. That comes in below the average for similar sized companies, and seems pretty reasonable to me. 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. It can also be a sign of good governance, more generally.
Is American Woodmark Worth Keeping An Eye On?
One important encouraging feature of American Woodmark is that it is growing profits. On top of that, we've seen insiders buying shares even though they already own plenty. That makes the company a prime candidate for my watchlist - and arguably a research priority. 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 American Woodmark.
There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. So if you like the sound of American Woodmark, 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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