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Is Now The Time To Put Summit Financial Group (NASDAQ:SMMF) On Your Watchlist?

Simply Wall St

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 the reality is that when a company loses money each year, for long enough, its investors will usually take their share of those losses.

In the age of tech-stock blue-sky investing, my choice may seem old fashioned; I still prefer profitable companies like Summit Financial Group (NASDAQ:SMMF). While profit is not necessarily a social good, it's easy to admire a business than can consistently produce it. Conversely, a loss-making company is yet to prove itself with profit, and eventually the sweet milk of external capital may run sour.

View our latest analysis for Summit Financial Group

How Quickly Is Summit Financial Group Increasing Earnings Per Share?

If a company can keep growing earnings per share (EPS) long enough, its share price will eventually follow. Therefore, there are plenty of investors who like to buy shares in companies that are growing EPS. As a tree reaches steadily for the sky, Summit Financial Group's EPS has grown 17% each year, compound, over three years. If the company can sustain that sort of growth, we'd expect shareholders to come away winners.

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. Not all of Summit Financial Group's revenue this year is revenue from operations, so keep in mind the revenue and margin numbers I've used might not be the best representation of the underlying business. While we note Summit Financial Group's EBIT margins were flat over the last year, revenue grew by a solid 8.1% to US$91m. That's progress.

The chart below shows how the company's bottom and top lines have progressed over time. For finer detail, click on the image.

NasdaqCM:SMMF Income Statement, August 6th 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 Summit Financial Group.

Are Summit Financial Group Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?

I like company leaders to have some skin in the game, so to speak, because it increases alignment of incentives between the people running the business, and its true owners. As a result, I'm encouraged by the fact that insiders own Summit Financial Group shares worth a considerable sum. Indeed, they hold US$37m worth of its stock. That shows significant buy-in, and may indicate conviction in the business strategy. That amounts to 12% 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 Summit Financial Group with market caps between US$200m and US$800m is about US$1.9m.

The Summit Financial Group CEO received US$1.3m in compensation for the year ending 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. I'd also argue reasonable pay levels attest to good decision making more generally.

Is Summit Financial Group Worth Keeping An Eye On?

You can't deny that Summit Financial Group has grown its earnings per share at a very impressive rate. That's attractive. If you need more convincing beyond that EPS growth rate, don't forget about the reasonable remuneration and the high insider ownership. This may only be a fast rundown, but the takeaway for me is that Summit Financial Group is worth keeping an eye on. Once you've identified a business you like, the next step is to consider what you think it's worth. And right now is your chance to view our exclusive discounted cashflow valuation of Summit Financial Group. You might benefit from giving it a glance today.

Although Summit Financial Group certainly looks good to me, I would like it more if insiders were buying up shares. If you like to see insider buying, too, then this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying, could be exactly what you're looking for.

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.