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Do MetLife's (NYSE:MET) Earnings Warrant Your Attention?

Simply Wall St

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.

If, on the other hand, you like companies that have revenue, and even earn profits, then you may well be interested in MetLife (NYSE:MET). While profit is not necessarily a social good, it's easy to admire a business than can consistently produce it. In comparison, loss making companies act like a sponge for capital - but unlike such a sponge they do not always produce something when squeezed.

View our latest analysis for MetLife

MetLife'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, MetLife has grown EPS by 9.4% per year. That's a pretty good rate, if the company can sustain it.

I like to take a look at earnings before interest and (EBIT) tax margins, as well as revenue growth, to get another take on the quality of the company's growth. I note that MetLife's revenue from operations was lower than its revenue in the last twelve months, so that could distort my analysis of its margins. Unfortunately, MetLife's revenue dropped 3.3% last year, but the silver lining is that EBIT margins improved from 8.1% to 13%. That falls short of ideal.

In the chart below, you can see how the company has grown earnings, and revenue, over time. For finer detail, click on the image.

NYSE:MET Income Statement, October 28th 2019

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 MetLife.

Are MetLife Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?

Like that fresh smell in the air when the rains are coming, insider buying fills me with optimistic anticipation. This view is based on the possibility that stock purchases signal bullishness on behalf of the buyer. Of course, we can never be sure what insiders are thinking, we can only judge their actions.

First things first; I didn't see insiders sell MetLife shares in the last year. Even better, though, is that the Independent Director, Carlos Gutierrez, bought a whopping US$250k worth of shares, paying about US$39.04 per share, on average. Big buys like that give me a sense of opportunity; actions speak louder than words.

Along with the insider buying, another encouraging sign for MetLife is that insiders, as a group, have a considerable shareholding. Given insiders own a small fortune of shares, currently valued at US$53m, they have plenty of motivation to push the business to succeed. That's certainly enough to make me think that management will be very focussed on long term growth.

Does MetLife Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?

One important encouraging feature of MetLife is that it is growing profits. On top of that, we've seen insiders buying shares even though they already own plenty. That makes the company a prime candidate for my watchlist - and arguably a research priority. 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 MetLife is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to its industry.

The good news is that MetLife is not the only growth stock with insider buying. Here's a list of them... with insider buying in the last three months!

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

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.

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. Thank you for reading.