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Here's Why We Think Columbia Financial (NASDAQ:CLBK) Is Well Worth Watching

Simply Wall St

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. And in their study titled Who Falls Prey to the Wolf of Wall Street?' Leuz et. al. found that it is 'quite common' for investors to lose money by buying into 'pump and dump' schemes.

In contrast to all that, I prefer to spend time on companies like Columbia Financial (NASDAQ:CLBK), which has not only revenues, but also profits. While profit is not necessarily a social good, it's easy to admire a business than can consistently produce it. Conversely, a loss-making company is yet to prove itself with profit, and eventually the sweet milk of external capital may run sour.

See our latest analysis for Columbia Financial

Columbia Financial's Improving Profits

Even modest earnings per share growth (EPS) can create meaningful value, when it is sustained reliably from year to year. So it's no surprise that some investors are more inclined to invest in profitable businesses. You can imagine, then, that it almost knocked my socks off when I realized that Columbia Financial grew its EPS from US$0.095 to US$0.50, in one short year. When you see earnings grow that quickly, it often means good things ahead for the company. But the key is discerning whether something profound has changed, or if this is a just a one-off boost.

Careful consideration of revenue growth and earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT) margins can help inform a view on the sustainability of the recent profit growth. I note that Columbia Financial's revenue from operations was lower than its revenue in the last twelve months, so that could distort my analysis of its margins. Columbia Financial maintained stable EBIT margins over the last year, all while growing revenue 16% to US$195m. 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.

NasdaqGS:CLBK Income Statement, December 9th 2019

You don't drive with your eyes on the rear-view mirror, so you might be more interested in this free report showing analyst forecasts for Columbia Financial's future profits.

Are Columbia Financial Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?

Like that fresh smell in the air when the rains are coming, insider buying fills me with optimistic anticipation. Because oftentimes, the purchase of stock is a sign that the buyer views it as undervalued. However, small purchases are not always indicative of conviction, and insiders don't always get it right.

The good news is that Columbia Financial insiders spent a whopping US$976k on stock in just one year, and I didn't see any selling. And so I find myself almost expectant, and certainly hopeful, that this large outlay signals prescient optimism for the business. We also note that it was the Independent Director, Robert Van Dyk, who made the biggest single acquisition, paying US$220k for shares at about US$14.81 each.

Along with the insider buying, another encouraging sign for Columbia Financial is that insiders, as a group, have a considerable shareholding. Indeed, they hold US$32m worth of its stock. That shows significant buy-in, and may indicate conviction in the business strategy. Despite being just 1.8% of the company, the value of that investment is enough to show insiders have plenty riding on the venture.

While insiders are apparently happy to hold and accumulate shares, that is just part of the pretty picture. That's because on our analysis the CEO, Tom Kemly, is paid less than the median for similar sized companies. For companies with market capitalizations between US$1.0b and US$3.2b, like Columbia Financial, the median CEO pay is around US$3.9m.

The CEO of Columbia Financial only received US$1.7m in total compensation for the year ending December 2018. That looks like modest pay to me, and may hint at a certain respect for the interests of shareholders. CEO compensation is hardly the most important aspect of a company to consider, but when its reasonable that does give me a little more confidence that leadership are looking out for shareholder interests. I'd also argue reasonable pay levels attest to good decision making more generally.

Is Columbia Financial Worth Keeping An Eye On?

Columbia Financial's earnings per share have taken off like a rocket aimed right at the moon. Just as heartening; insiders both own and are buying more stock. Because of the potential that it has reached an inflection point, I'd suggest Columbia Financial belongs on the top of your watchlist. Now, you could try to make up your mind on Columbia Financial by focusing on just these factors, or you could also consider how its price-to-earnings ratio compares to other companies in its industry.

The good news is that Columbia Financial is not the only growth stock with insider buying. Here's a list of them... 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

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.

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. Thank you for reading.