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Here's Why We Think Manulife Financial (TSE:MFC) Is Well Worth Watching

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·3 min read
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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. 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.

If, on the other hand, you like companies that have revenue, and even earn profits, then you may well be interested in Manulife Financial (TSE:MFC). 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. Conversely, a loss-making company is yet to prove itself with profit, and eventually the sweet milk of external capital may run sour.

Check out our latest analysis for Manulife Financial

How Fast Is Manulife Financial 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. I, for one, am blown away by the fact that Manulife Financial has grown EPS by 54% per year, over the last three years. Growth that fast may well be fleeting, but like a lotus blooming from a murky pond, it sparks joy for the wary stock pickers.

I like to see top-line growth as an indication that growth is sustainable, and I look for a high earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT) margin to point to a competitive moat (though some companies with low margins also have moats). I note that Manulife Financial's revenue from operations was lower than its revenue in the last twelve months, so that could distort my analysis of its margins. Manulife Financial's EBIT margins have actually improved by 10.4 percentage points in the last year, to reach 18%, but, on the flip side, revenue was down 33%. That falls short of ideal.

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.

earnings-and-revenue-history
earnings-and-revenue-history

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 Manulife Financial's future profits.

Are Manulife Financial Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?

We would not expect to see insiders owning a large percentage of a CA$49b company like Manulife Financial. But we are reassured by the fact they have invested in the company. To be specific, they have CA$25m worth of shares. That shows significant buy-in, and may indicate conviction in the business strategy. Even though that's only about 0.05% of the company, it's enough money to indicate alignment between the leaders of the business and ordinary shareholders.

Does Manulife Financial Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?

Manulife Financial's earnings per share have taken off like a rocket aimed right at the moon. That EPS growth certainly has my attention, and the large insider ownership only serves to further stoke my interest. The hope is, of course, that the strong growth marks a fundamental improvement in the business economics. So to my mind Manulife Financial is worth putting on your watchlist; after all, shareholders do well when the market underestimates fast growing companies. We don't want to rain on the parade too much, but we did also find 2 warning signs for Manulife Financial (1 shouldn't be ignored!) that you need to be mindful of.

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.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.