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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. But as Peter Lynch said in One Up On Wall Street, 'Long shots almost never pay off.'
So if you're like me, you might be more interested in profitable, growing companies, like BorgWarner (NYSE:BWA). 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. While a well funded company may sustain losses for years, unless its owners have an endless appetite for subsidizing the customer, it will need to generate a profit eventually, or else breathe its last breath.
BorgWarner's Earnings Per Share Are Growing.
As one of my mentors once told me, share price follows earnings per share (EPS). It's no surprise, then, that I like to invest in companies with EPS growth. Over the last three years, BorgWarner has grown EPS by 16% per year. That's a pretty good rate, if the company can sustain it.
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). It seems BorgWarner is pretty stable, since revenue and EBIT margins are pretty flat year on year. That's not a major concern but nor does it point to the long term growth we like to see.
The chart below shows how the company's bottom and top lines have progressed over time. For finer detail, click on the image.
While we live in the present moment at all times, there's no doubt in my mind that the future matters more than the past. So why not check this interactive chart depicting future EPS estimates, for BorgWarner?
Are BorgWarner Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
Since BorgWarner has a market capitalization of US$8.5b, 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. With a whopping US$67m worth of shares as a group, insiders have plenty riding on the company's success. This should keep them focused on creating long term value for 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. For companies with market capitalizations between US$4.0b and US$12b, like BorgWarner, the median CEO pay is around US$6.9m.
BorgWarner offered total compensation worth US$5.0m to its CEO in the year to December 2018. That comes in below the average for similar sized companies, and seems pretty reasonable to me. While the level of CEO compensation isn't a huge factor in my view of the company, modest remuneration is a positive, because it suggests that the board keeps shareholder interests in mind. It can also be a sign of a culture of integrity, in a broader sense.
Should You Add BorgWarner To Your Watchlist?
One important encouraging feature of BorgWarner is that it is growing profits. The fact that EPS is growing is a genuine positive for BorgWarner, but the pretty picture gets better than that. With a meaningful level of insider ownership, and reasonable CEO pay, a reasonable mind might conclude that this is one stock worth watching. 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 BorgWarner is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to its industry.
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
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