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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. 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 contrast to all that, I prefer to spend time on companies like Quest Diagnostics (NYSE:DGX), which has not only revenues, but also profits. While that doesn't make the shares worth buying at any price, you can't deny that successful capitalism requires profit, eventually. In comparison, loss making companies act like a sponge for capital - but unlike such a sponge they do not always produce something when squeezed.
How Fast Is Quest Diagnostics Growing?
If a company can keep growing earnings per share (EPS) long enough, its share price will eventually follow. That means EPS growth is considered a real positive by most successful long-term investors. Impressively, Quest Diagnostics has grown EPS by 19% 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 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). While we note Quest Diagnostics's EBIT margins were flat over the last year, revenue grew by a solid 22% to US$9.4b. That's a real positive.
You can take a look at the company's revenue and earnings growth trend, in the chart below. Click on the chart to see the exact numbers.
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 Quest Diagnostics.
Are Quest Diagnostics Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
Since Quest Diagnostics has a market capitalization of US$16b, we wouldn't expect insiders to hold a large percentage of shares. 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$82m, they have plenty of motivation to push the business to succeed. This should keep them focused on creating long term value for shareholders.
Is Quest Diagnostics Worth Keeping An Eye On?
You can't deny that Quest Diagnostics has grown its earnings per share at a very impressive rate. That's attractive. Further, the high level of insider ownership impresses me, and suggests that I'm not the only one who appreciates the EPS growth. Fast growth and confident insiders should be enough to warrant further research. So the answer is that I do think this is a good stock to follow along with. Still, you should learn about the 3 warning signs we've spotted with Quest Diagnostics (including 1 which doesn't sit too well with us) .
Although Quest Diagnostics 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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