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Some have more dollars than sense, they say, so even companies that have no revenue, no profit, and a record of falling short, can easily find investors. Unfortunately, high risk investments often have little probability of ever paying off, and many investors pay a price to learn their lesson.
In the age of tech-stock blue-sky investing, my choice may seem old fashioned; I still prefer profitable companies like United Bankshares (NASDAQ:UBSI). Even if the shares are fully valued today, most capitalists would recognize its profits as the demonstration of steady value generation. Conversely, a loss-making company is yet to prove itself with profit, and eventually the sweet milk of external capital may run sour.
How Fast Is United Bankshares Growing?
The market is a voting machine in the short term, but a weighing machine in the long term, so share price follows earnings per share (EPS) eventually. That means EPS growth is considered a real positive by most successful long-term investors. It certainly is nice to see that United Bankshares has managed to grow EPS by 19% 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 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). I note that United Bankshares's revenue from operations was lower than its revenue in the last twelve months, so that could distort my analysis of its margins. While we note United Bankshares's EBIT margins were flat over the last year, revenue grew by a solid 56% to US$1.1b. That's progress.
In the chart below, you can see how the company has grown earnings, and revenue, over time. For finer detail, click on the image.
In investing, as in life, the future matters more than the past. So why not check out this free interactive visualization of United Bankshares's forecast profits?
Are United Bankshares 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 United Bankshares shares worth a considerable sum. Given insiders own a small fortune of shares, currently valued at US$97m, they have plenty of motivation to push the business to succeed. This should keep them focused on creating long term value for shareholders.
It's good to see that insiders are invested in the company, but are remuneration levels reasonable? A brief analysis of the CEO compensation suggests they are. I discovered that the median total compensation for the CEOs of companies like United Bankshares with market caps between US$4.0b and US$12b is about US$6.5m.
United Bankshares offered total compensation worth US$4.3m to its CEO in the year to . 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. I'd also argue reasonable pay levels attest to good decision making more generally.
Should You Add United Bankshares To Your Watchlist?
Given my belief that share price follows earnings per share you can easily imagine how I feel about United Bankshares's strong EPS growth. If that's not enough, consider also that the CEO pay is quite reasonable, and insiders are well-invested alongside other shareholders. This may only be a fast rundown, but the takeaway for me is that United Bankshares is worth keeping an eye on. You still need to take note of risks, for example - United Bankshares has 1 warning sign we think you should be aware of.
Although United Bankshares 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.
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. 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.
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