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Here's Why We Think Erie Indemnity (NASDAQ:ERIE) Is Well Worth Watching

Simply Wall St

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Some have more dollars than sense, they say, so even companies that have no revenue, no profit, and a record of falling short, can easily find investors. 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.

In the age of tech-stock blue-sky investing, my choice may seem old fashioned; I still prefer profitable companies like Erie Indemnity (NASDAQ:ERIE). Now, I'm not saying that the stock is necessarily undervalued today; but I can't shake an appreciation for the profitability of the business itself. In comparison, loss making companies act like a sponge for capital - but unlike such a sponge they do not always produce something when squeezed.

See our latest analysis for Erie Indemnity

Erie Indemnity's Earnings Per Share Are Growing.

The market is a voting machine in the short term, but a weighing machine in the long term, so share price follows earnings per share (EPS) eventually. That means EPS growth is considered a real positive by most successful long-term investors. Impressively, Erie Indemnity has grown EPS by 18% per year, compound, in the last three years. As a general rule, we'd say that if a company can keep up that sort of growth, shareholders will be smiling.

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. Erie Indemnity maintained stable EBIT margins over the last year, all while growing revenue 29% to US$2.4b. That's a real positive.

You can take a look at the company's revenue and earnings growth trend, in the chart below. To see the actual numbers, click on the chart.

NasdaqGS:ERIE Income Statement, May 31st 2019

While it's always good to see growing profits, you should always remember that a weak balance sheet could come back to bite. So check Erie Indemnity's balance sheet strength, before getting too excited.

Are Erie Indemnity Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?

Many consider high insider ownership to be a strong sign of alignment between the leaders of a company and the ordinary shareholders. So we're pleased to report that Erie Indemnity insiders own a meaningful share of the business. In fact, they own 60% 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. At the current share price, that insider holding is worth a whopping US$5.7b. That means they have plenty of their own capital riding on the performance of the business!

It's good to see that insiders are invested in the company, but are remuneration levels reasonable? Well, based on the CEO pay, I'd say they are indeed. For companies with market capitalizations between US$4.0b and US$12b, like Erie Indemnity, the median CEO pay is around US$7.0m.

The Erie Indemnity CEO received total compensation of just US$3.5m in the year to December 2018. That looks like modest pay to me, and may hint at a certain respect for the interests of shareholders. 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 a culture of integrity, in a broader sense.

Is Erie Indemnity Worth Keeping An Eye On?

For growth investors like me, Erie Indemnity's raw rate of earnings growth is a beacon in the night. If you need more convincing beyond that EPS growth rate, don't forget about the reasonable remuneration and the high insider ownership. This may only be a fast rundown, but the takeaway for me is that Erie Indemnity is worth keeping an eye on. Now, you could try to make up your mind on Erie Indemnity by focusing on just these factors, or you could also consider how its price-to-earnings ratio compares to other companies in its industry.

You can invest in any company you want. But if you prefer to focus on stocks that have demonstrated insider buying, here is a list of companies 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

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.