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 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 Spark Energy (NASDAQ:SPKE). 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. 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 Spark Energy Growing Its Earnings Per Share?
In the last three years Spark Energy's earnings per share took off like a rocket; fast, and from a low base. So the actual rate of growth doesn't tell us much. As a result, I'll zoom in on growth over the last year, instead. Like a firecracker arcing through the night sky, Spark Energy's EPS shot from US$0.32 to US$0.64, over the last year. Year on year growth of 99% is certainly a sight to behold.
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. Spark Energy's EBIT margins have actually improved by 5.2 percentage points in the last year, to reach 9.5%, but, on the flip side, revenue was down 32%. That falls short of ideal.
In the chart below, you can see how the company has grown earnings, and revenue, over time. Click on the chart to see the exact numbers.
While it's always good to see growing profits, you should always remember that a weak balance sheet could come back to bite. So check Spark Energy's balance sheet strength, before getting too excited.
Are Spark Energy 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 Spark Energy shares worth a considerable sum. Indeed, they hold US$42m worth of its stock. That shows significant buy-in, and may indicate conviction in the business strategy. That amounts to 10% of the company, demonstrating a degree of high-level alignment with shareholders.
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 Spark Energy with market caps between US$200m and US$800m is about US$1.7m.
The Spark Energy CEO received total compensation of just US$275k in the year to . That's clearly well below average, so at a glance, that arrangement seems generous to shareholders, and points to a modest remuneration culture. CEO remuneration levels are not the most important metric for investors, but when the pay is modest, that does support enhanced alignment between the CEO and the ordinary shareholders. I'd also argue reasonable pay levels attest to good decision making more generally.
Should You Add Spark Energy To Your Watchlist?
Spark Energy's earnings have taken off like any random crypto-currency did, back in 2017. The sweetener is that insiders have a mountain of stock, and the CEO remuneration is quite reasonable. The sharp increase in earnings could signal good business momentum. Big growth can make big winners, so I do think Spark Energy is worth considering carefully. Even so, be aware that Spark Energy is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those is a bit concerning...
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. 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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