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Here's Why I Think Centene (NYSE:CNC) Is An Interesting Stock

Simply Wall St

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 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 Centene (NYSE:CNC). While that doesn't make the shares worth buying at any price, you can't deny that successful capitalism requires profit, eventually. 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.

See our latest analysis for Centene

How Fast Is Centene Growing?

As one of my mentors once told me, share price follows earnings per share (EPS). It's no surprise, then, that I like to invest in companies with EPS growth. Impressively, Centene has grown EPS by 32% per year, compound, in the last three years. If the company can sustain that sort of growth, we'd expect shareholders to come away winners.

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). I note that Centene's revenue from operations was lower than its revenue in the last twelve months, so that could distort my analysis of its margins. Centene maintained stable EBIT margins over the last year, all while growing revenue 30% to US$68b. That's a real positive.

You can take a look at the company's revenue and earnings growth trend, in the chart below. Click on the chart to see the exact numbers.

NYSE:CNC Income Statement, November 11th 2019

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 Centene?

Are Centene Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?

Like standing at the lookout, surveying the horizon at sunrise, insider buying, for some investors, sparks joy. That's because insider buying often indicates that those closest to the company have confidence that the share price will perform well. However, small purchases are not always indicative of conviction, and insiders don't always get it right.

Like a sturdy phalanx Centene insiders have stood united by refusing to sell shares over the last year. But the bigger deal is that the Director, Jessica Blume, paid US$151k to buy shares at an average price of US$52.99.

On top of the insider buying, it's good to see that Centene insiders have a valuable investment in the business. Indeed, they have a glittering mountain of wealth invested in it, currently valued at US$300m. 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.

Should You Add Centene To Your Watchlist?

For growth investors like me, Centene's raw rate of earnings growth is a beacon in the night. The cranberry sauce on the turkey is that insiders own a bunch of shares, and one has been buying more. So I do think this is one stock worth watching. Now, you could try to make up your mind on Centene by focusing on just these factors, or you could also consider how its price-to-earnings ratio compares to other companies in its industry.

There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. So if you like the sound of Centene, 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

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.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Thank you for reading.