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I Ran A Stock Scan For Earnings Growth And First Bancshares (NASDAQ:FBMS) Passed With Ease

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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.'

In the age of tech-stock blue-sky investing, my choice may seem old fashioned; I still prefer profitable companies like First Bancshares (NASDAQ:FBMS). 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. Loss-making companies are always racing against time to reach financial sustainability, but time is often a friend of the profitable company, especially if it is growing.

See our latest analysis for First Bancshares

First Bancshares's Earnings Per Share Are 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. It certainly is nice to see that First Bancshares has managed to grow EPS by 30% per year over three years. If the company can sustain that sort of growth, we'd expect shareholders to come away winners.

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. Not all of First Bancshares'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. First Bancshares maintained stable EBIT margins over the last year, all while growing revenue 23% to US$191m. 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.

earnings-and-revenue-history
earnings-and-revenue-history

The trick, as an investor, is to find companies that are going to perform well in the future, not just in the past. To that end, right now and today, you can check our visualization of consensus analyst forecasts for future First Bancshares EPS 100% free.

Are First Bancshares 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. So it is good to see that First Bancshares insiders have a significant amount of capital invested in the stock. Indeed, they hold US$30m worth of its stock. That shows significant buy-in, and may indicate conviction in the business strategy. Despite being just 3.8% of the company, the value of that investment is enough to show insiders have plenty riding on the venture.

It's good to see that insiders are invested in the company, but are remuneration levels reasonable? Well, based on the CEO pay, I'd say they are indeed. I discovered that the median total compensation for the CEOs of companies like First Bancshares with market caps between US$400m and US$1.6b is about US$2.4m.

The First Bancshares CEO received US$1.6m in compensation for the year ending . That comes in below the average for similar sized companies, and seems pretty reasonable to me. CEO remuneration levels are not the most important metric for investors, but when the pay is modest, that does support enhanced alignment between the CEO and the ordinary shareholders. It can also be a sign of a culture of integrity, in a broader sense.

Does First Bancshares Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?

You can't deny that First Bancshares 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. Each to their own, but I think all this makes First Bancshares look rather interesting indeed. 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 First Bancshares 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.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.