Generally speaking the aim of active stock picking is to find companies that provide returns that are superior to the market average. And the truth is, you can make significant gains if you buy good quality businesses at the right price. For example, long term SEEK Limited (ASX:SEK) shareholders have enjoyed a 65% share price rise over the last half decade, well in excess of the market return of around 14% (not including dividends).
To paraphrase Benjamin Graham: Over the short term the market is a voting machine, but over the long term it's a weighing machine. By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.
SEEK's earnings per share are down 33% per year, despite strong share price performance over five years. This was, in part, due to extraordinary items impacting earning in the last twelve months.
This means it's unlikely the market is judging the company based on earnings growth. Because earnings per share don't seem to match up with the share price, we'll take a look at other metrics instead.
On the other hand, SEEK's revenue is growing nicely, at a compound rate of 14% over the last five years. It's quite possible that management are prioritizing revenue growth over EPS growth at the moment.
The company's revenue and earnings (over time) are depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).
We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Having said that, most people consider earnings and revenue growth trends to be a more meaningful guide to the business. This free report showing analyst forecasts should help you form a view on SEEK
What about the Total Shareholder Return (TSR)?
Investors should note that there's a difference between SEEK's total shareholder return (TSR) and its share price change, which we've covered above. The TSR is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. SEEK's TSR of 85% for the 5 years exceeded its share price return, because it has paid dividends.
A Different Perspective
While it's never nice to take a loss, SEEK shareholders can take comfort that their trailing twelve month loss of 5.4% wasn't as bad as the market loss of around 8.3%. Of course, the long term returns are far more important and the good news is that over five years, the stock has returned 13% for each year. In the best case scenario the last year is just a temporary blip on the journey to a brighter future. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. Take risks, for example - SEEK has 1 warning sign we think you should be aware of.
SEEK is not the only stock insiders are buying. So take a peek at this free list of growing companies with insider buying.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on AU exchanges.
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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