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. And in their study titled Who Falls Prey to the Wolf of Wall Street?' Leuz et. al. found that it is 'quite common' for investors to lose money by buying into 'pump and dump' schemes.
If, on the other hand, you like companies that have revenue, and even earn profits, then you may well be interested in State Auto Financial (NASDAQ:STFC). 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.
How Quickly Is State Auto Financial Increasing Earnings Per Share?
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 means EPS growth is considered a real positive by most successful long-term investors. I, for one, am blown away by the fact that State Auto Financial has grown EPS by 37% per year, over the last three years. That sort of growth never lasts long, but like a shooting star it is well worth watching when it happens.
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. I note that, last year, State Auto Financial's revenue from operations was lower than its revenue, so that could distort my analysis of its margins. Unfortunately, revenue is down and so are margins. That is, not a hint of euphemism here, suboptimal.
The chart below shows how the company's bottom and top lines have progressed over time. Click on the chart to see the exact numbers.
In investing, as in life, the future matters more than the past. So why not check out this free interactive visualization of State Auto Financial's forecast profits?
Are State Auto Financial Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
Like standing at the lookout, surveying the horizon at sunrise, insider buying, for some investors, sparks joy. 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.
In the last twelve months State Auto Financial insiders spent US$36k on stock; good news for shareholders. This might not be a huge sum, but it's well worth noting anyway, given the complete lack of selling.
Is State Auto Financial Worth Keeping An Eye On?
State Auto Financial's earnings per share growth have been levitating higher, like a mountain goat scaling the Alps. Growth investors should find it difficult to look past that strong EPS move. And in fact, it could well signal a fundamental shift in the business economics. For me, this situation certainly piques my interest. 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 State Auto Financial is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to its industry.
There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. So if you like the sound of State Auto Financial, you'll probably love this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.
Please note the insider transactions discussed in this article refer to reportable transactions in the relevant jurisdiction
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.
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