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Here's Why We Think Simmons First National (NASDAQ:SFNC) Is Well Worth Watching

Simply Wall St

It's only natural that many investors, especially those who are new to the game, prefer to buy shares in 'sexy' stocks with a good story, even if those businesses lose money. But as Peter Lynch said in One Up On Wall Street, 'Long shots almost never pay off.'

In the age of tech-stock blue-sky investing, my choice may seem old fashioned; I still prefer profitable companies like Simmons First National (NASDAQ:SFNC). While profit is not necessarily a social good, it's easy to admire a business that can consistently produce it. 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 Simmons First National

How Fast Is Simmons First National Growing?

If a company can keep growing earnings per share (EPS) long enough, its share price will eventually follow. That makes EPS growth an attractive quality for any company. Impressively, Simmons First National has grown EPS by 18% 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.

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. I note that Simmons First National's revenue from operations was lower than its revenue in the last twelve months, so that could distort my analysis of its margins. Simmons First National maintained stable EBIT margins over the last year, all while growing revenue 11% to US$719m. That's a real positive.

The chart below shows how the company's bottom and top lines have progressed over time. For finer detail, click on the image.

NasdaqGS:SFNC Income Statement, January 14th 2020

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 Simmons First National.

Are Simmons First National Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?

Like standing at the lookout, surveying the horizon at sunrise, insider buying, for some investors, sparks joy. Because oftentimes, the purchase of stock is a sign that the buyer views it as undervalued. However, small purchases are not always indicative of conviction, and insiders don't always get it right.

We do note that, in the last year, insiders sold -US$25.4k worth of shares. But that's far less than the US$990k insiders spend purchasing stock. This makes me even more interested in Simmons First National because it suggests that those who understand the company best, are optimistic. We also note that it was the Chairman & CEO, George Makris, who made the biggest single acquisition, paying US$330k for shares at about US$24.45 each.

On top of the insider buying, it's good to see that Simmons First National insiders have a valuable investment in the business. Indeed, they hold US$47m worth of its stock. That's a lot of money, and no small incentive to work hard. Despite being just 1.6% of the company, the value of that investment is enough to show insiders have plenty riding on the venture.

Should You Add Simmons First National To Your Watchlist?

You can't deny that Simmons First National has grown its earnings per share at a very impressive rate. That's attractive. Not only that, but we can see that insiders both own a lot of, and are buying more, shares in the company. So it's fair to say I think this stock may well deserve a spot on your watchlist. Of course, just because Simmons First National is growing does not mean it is undervalued. If you're wondering about the valuation, check out this gauge of its price-to-earnings ratio, as compared to its industry.

There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. So if you like the sound of Simmons First National, you'll probably love this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

Please note the insider transactions discussed in this article refer to reportable transactions in the relevant jurisdiction

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.

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. Thank you for reading.