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.
So if you're like me, you might be more interested in profitable, growing companies, like Popular (NASDAQ:BPOP). While that doesn't make the shares worth buying at any price, you can't deny that successful capitalism requires profit, eventually. 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.
Popular's Earnings Per Share Are Growing.
If a company can keep growing earnings per share (EPS) long enough, its share price will eventually follow. It's no surprise, then, that I like to invest in companies with EPS growth. Over the last three years, Popular has grown EPS by 16% per year. That's a pretty good rate, if the company can sustain it.
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 Popular'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. Popular maintained stable EBIT margins over the last year, all while growing revenue 26% to US$2.1b. That's a real positive.
The chart below shows how the company's bottom and top lines have progressed over time. Click on the chart to see the exact numbers.
Fortunately, we've got access to analyst forecasts of Popular's future profits. You can do your own forecasts without looking, or you can take a peek at what the professionals are predicting.
Are Popular Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
We would not expect to see insiders owning a large percentage of a US$5.6b company like Popular. But we do take comfort from the fact that they are investors in the company. Given insiders own a small fortune of shares, currently valued at US$68m, they have plenty of motivation to push the business to succeed. This should keep them focused on creating long term value for shareholders.
It means a lot to see insiders invested in the business, but I find myself wondering if remuneration policies are shareholder friendly. 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 Popular, the median CEO pay is around US$6.8m.
Popular offered total compensation worth US$4.4m to its CEO in the year to December 2018. That seems pretty reasonable, especially given its below the median for similar sized companies. 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.
Should You Add Popular To Your Watchlist?
One positive for Popular is that it is growing EPS. That's nice to see. The fact that EPS is growing is a genuine positive for Popular, 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. While we've looked at the quality of the earnings, we haven't yet done any work to value the stock. So if you like to buy cheap, you may want to check if Popular is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to its industry.
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
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