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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 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 Fortune Brands Home & Security (NYSE:FBHS). 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. While a well funded company may sustain losses for years, unless its owners have an endless appetite for subsidizing the customer, it will need to generate a profit eventually, or else breathe its last breath.
How Fast Is Fortune Brands Home & Security Growing?
If you believe that markets are even vaguely efficient, then over the long term you'd expect a company's share price to follow its earnings per share (EPS). That makes EPS growth an attractive quality for any company. Fortune Brands Home & Security managed to grow EPS by 8.3% per year, over three years. That's a pretty good rate, if the company can sustain it.
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. While we note Fortune Brands Home & Security's EBIT margins were flat over the last year, revenue grew by a solid 5.6% to US$6.1b. That's progress.
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 Fortune Brands Home & Security.
Are Fortune Brands Home & Security Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
We would not expect to see insiders owning a large percentage of a US$12b company like Fortune Brands Home & Security. But we are reassured by the fact they have invested in the company. With a whopping US$51m worth of shares as a group, insiders have plenty riding on the company's success. That's certainly enough to make me think that management will be very focussed on long term growth.
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 over US$8.0b, like Fortune Brands Home & Security, the median CEO pay is around US$10m.
The CEO of Fortune Brands Home & Security only received US$4.7m in total compensation for the year ending . That's clearly well below average, so at a glance, that arrangement seems generous to shareholders, and points to a modest remuneration culture. 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 Fortune Brands Home & Security To Your Watchlist?
As I already mentioned, Fortune Brands Home & Security is a growing business, which is what I like to see. Earnings growth might be the main game for Fortune Brands Home & Security, but the fun does not stop there. With a meaningful level of insider ownership, and reasonable CEO pay, a reasonable mind might conclude that this is one stock worth watching. However, before you get too excited we've discovered 1 warning sign for Fortune Brands Home & Security that you should be aware of.
Although Fortune Brands Home & Security 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. 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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