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 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.
In the age of tech-stock blue-sky investing, my choice may seem old fashioned; I still prefer profitable companies like General Dynamics (NYSE:GD). While that doesn't make the shares worth buying at any price, you can't deny that successful capitalism requires profit, eventually. Conversely, a loss-making company is yet to prove itself with profit, and eventually the sweet milk of external capital may run sour.
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How Fast Is General Dynamics Growing?
If you believe that markets are even vaguely efficient, then over the long term you'd expect a company's share price to follow its earnings per share (EPS). That makes EPS growth an attractive quality for any company. General Dynamics managed to grow EPS by 7.0% per year, over three years. While that sort of growth rate isn't amazing, it does show the business is growing.
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). While we note General Dynamics's EBIT margins were flat over the last year, revenue grew by a solid 22% to US$38b. That's a real positive.
You can take a look at the company's revenue and earnings growth trend, in the chart below. For finer detail, click on the image.
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 General Dynamics.
Are General Dynamics Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
Like that fresh smell in the air when the rains are coming, insider buying fills me with optimistic anticipation. Because oftentimes, the purchase of stock is a sign that the buyer views it as undervalued. However, insiders are sometimes wrong, and we don't know the exact thinking behind their acquisitions.
Despite -US$398.4k worth of sales, General Dynamics insiders have overwhelmingly been buying the stock, spending US$610k on purchases in the last twelve months. You could argue that level of buying implies genuine confidence in the business. We also note that it was the Independent Director, Mark Malcolm, who made the biggest single acquisition, paying US$510k for shares at about US$170 each.
On top of the insider buying, it's good to see that General Dynamics insiders have a valuable investment in the business. Notably, they have an enormous stake in the company, worth US$1.7b. I would find that kind of skin in the game quite encouraging, if I owned shares, since it would ensure that the leaders of the company would also experience my success, or failure, with the stock.
Is General Dynamics Worth Keeping An Eye On?
As I already mentioned, General Dynamics is a growing business, which is what I like to see. 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. Of course, identifying quality businesses is only half the battle; investors need to know whether the stock is undervalued. So you might want to consider this free discounted cashflow valuation of General Dynamics.
As a growth investor I do like to see insider buying. But General Dynamics isn't the only one. You can see a a free list of them here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.