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Here's Why I Think Heartland Financial USA (NASDAQ:HTLF) Is An Interesting Stock

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. 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 the age of tech-stock blue-sky investing, my choice may seem old fashioned; I still prefer profitable companies like Heartland Financial USA (NASDAQ:HTLF). Even if the shares are fully valued today, most capitalists would recognize its profits as the demonstration of steady value generation. 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 Heartland Financial USA

Heartland Financial USA'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. It's no surprise, then, that I like to invest in companies with EPS growth. Heartland Financial USA managed to grow EPS by 7.6% per year, over three years. That might not be particularly high growth, but it does show that per-share earnings are moving steadily in the right direction.

One way to double-check a company's growth is to look at how its revenue, and earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) margins are changing. Not all of Heartland Financial USA's revenue this year is revenue from operations, so keep in mind the revenue and margin numbers I've used might not be the best representation of the underlying business. While we note Heartland Financial USA's EBIT margins were flat over the last year, revenue grew by a solid 19% to US$511m. That's a real positive.

You can take a look at the company's revenue and earnings growth trend, in the chart below. For finer detail, click on the image.

NasdaqGS:HTLF Income Statement, July 4th 2019
NasdaqGS:HTLF Income Statement, July 4th 2019

Fortunately, we've got access to analyst forecasts of Heartland Financial USA's future profits. You can do your own forecasts without looking, or you can take a peek at what the professionals are predicting.

Are Heartland Financial USA Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?

It makes me feel more secure owning shares in a company if insiders also own shares, thusly more closely aligning our interests. As a result, I'm encouraged by the fact that insiders own Heartland Financial USA shares worth a considerable sum. Given insiders own a small fortune of shares, currently valued at US$91m, they have plenty of motivation to push the business to succeed. 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. I discovered that the median total compensation for the CEOs of companies like Heartland Financial USA with market caps between US$1.0b and US$3.2b is about US$3.9m.

The Heartland Financial USA CEO received total compensation of just US$1.5m in the year to December 2018. That's clearly well below average, so at a glance, that arrangement seems generous to shareholders, and points to a modest remuneration culture. 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 good governance, more generally.

Does Heartland Financial USA Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?

As I already mentioned, Heartland Financial USA is a growing business, which is what I like to see. The fact that EPS is growing is a genuine positive for Heartland Financial USA, but the pretty picture gets better than that. Boasting both modest CEO pay and considerable insider ownership, I'd argue this one is worthy of the watchlist, at least. Of course, identifying quality businesses is only half the battle; investors need to know whether the stock is undervalued. So you might want to consider this free discounted cashflow valuation of Heartland Financial USA.

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

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.