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It's only natural that many investors, especially those who are new to the game, prefer to buy shares in 'sexy' stocks with a good story, even if those businesses lose money. But the reality is that when a company loses money each year, for long enough, its investors will usually take their share of those losses.
In the age of tech-stock blue-sky investing, my choice may seem old fashioned; I still prefer profitable companies like Astec Industries (NASDAQ:ASTE). While profit is not necessarily a social good, it's easy to admire a business that can consistently produce it. In comparison, loss making companies act like a sponge for capital - but unlike such a sponge they do not always produce something when squeezed.
Astec Industries's Improving Profits
Over the last three years, Astec Industries has grown earnings per share (EPS) like young bamboo after rain; fast, and from a low base. So I don't think the percent growth rate is particularly meaningful. As a result, I'll zoom in on growth over the last year, instead. Like the last firework on New Year's Eve accelerating into the sky, Astec Industries's EPS shot from US$0.65 to US$1.52, over the last year. Year on year growth of 136% is certainly a sight to behold.
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. Astec Industries's EBIT margins have actually improved by 2.7 percentage points in the last year, to reach 3.9%, but, on the flip side, revenue was down 5.5%. That's not ideal.
The chart below shows how the company's bottom and top lines have progressed 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 Astec Industries.
Are Astec Industries 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 Astec Industries shares worth a considerable sum. To be specific, they have US$24m worth of shares. That shows significant buy-in, and may indicate conviction in the business strategy. Despite being just 1.9% of the company, the value of that investment is enough to show insiders have plenty riding on the venture.
It means a lot to see insiders invested in the business, but I find myself wondering if remuneration policies are shareholder friendly. A brief analysis of the CEO compensation suggests they are. For companies with market capitalizations between US$1.0b and US$3.2b, like Astec Industries, the median CEO pay is around US$3.7m.
Astec Industries offered total compensation worth US$2.7m to its CEO in the year to . 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.
Should You Add Astec Industries To Your Watchlist?
Astec Industries's earnings have taken off like any random crypto-currency did, back in 2017. The cherry on top is that insiders own a bucket-load of shares, and the CEO pay seems really quite reasonable. The strong EPS improvement suggests the businesses is humming along. Big growth can make big winners, so I do think Astec Industries is worth considering carefully. 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 Astec Industries is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to its industry.
Although Astec Industries 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.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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