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 contrast to all that, I prefer to spend time on companies like China Education Group Holdings (HKG:839), which has not only revenues, but also profits. Even if the shares are fully valued today, most capitalists would recognize its profits as the demonstration of steady value generation. Conversely, a loss-making company is yet to prove itself with profit, and eventually the sweet milk of external capital may run sour.
China Education Group Holdings'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 it's no surprise that some investors are more inclined to invest in profitable businesses. China Education Group Holdings boosted its trailing twelve month EPS from CN¥0.27 to CN¥0.29, in the last year. That's a 10% gain; respectable growth in the broader scheme of things.
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. On the one hand, China Education Group Holdings's EBIT margins fell over the last year, but on the other hand, revenue grew. So it seems the future my hold further growth, especially if EBIT margins can stabilize.
In the chart below, you can see how the company has grown earnings, and revenue, over time. Click on the chart to see the exact numbers.
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 China Education Group Holdings.
Are China Education Group Holdings Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
Personally, I like to see high insider ownership of a company, since it suggests that it will be managed in the interests of shareholders. So we're pleased to report that China Education Group Holdings insiders own a meaningful share of the business. In fact, they own 74% of the company, so they will share in the same delights and challenges experienced by the ordinary shareholders. This makes me think they will be incentivised to plan for the long term - something I like to see. And their holding is extremely valuable at the current share price, totalling CN¥17b. Now that's what I call some serious skin in the game!
It means a lot to see insiders invested in the business, but I find myself wondering if remuneration policies are shareholder friendly. Well, based on the CEO pay, I'd say they are indeed. For companies with market capitalizations between CN¥14b and CN¥44b, like China Education Group Holdings, the median CEO pay is around CN¥3.9m.
China Education Group Holdings offered total compensation worth CN¥2.5m to its CEO in the year to August 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. I'd also argue reasonable pay levels attest to good decision making more generally.
Does China Education Group Holdings Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?
One important encouraging feature of China Education Group Holdings is that it is growing profits. Earnings growth might be the main game for China Education Group Holdings, 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. 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 China Education Group Holdings is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to its industry.
Of course, you can do well (sometimes) buying stocks that are not growing earnings and do not have insiders buying shares. But as a growth investor I always like to check out companies that do have those features. You can access a free list of them here.
Please note the insider transactions discussed in this article refer to reportable transactions in the relevant jurisdiction
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