Like a puppy chasing its tail, some new investors often chase ‘the next big thing’, even if that means buying ‘story stocks’ without revenue, let alone profit. Unfortunately, high risk investments often have little probability of ever paying off, and many investors pay a price to learn their lesson.
In contrast to all that, I prefer to spend time on companies like Middlesex Water (NASDAQ:MSEX), which has not only revenues, but also profits. While that doesn’t make the shares worth buying at any price, you can’t deny that successful capitalism requires profit, eventually. 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.
How Fast Is Middlesex Water Growing?
As one of my mentors once told me, share price follows earnings per share (EPS). That makes EPS growth an attractive quality for any company. We can see that in the last three years Middlesex Water grew its EPS by 15% per year. That’s a pretty good rate, if the company can sustain it.
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). Middlesex Water’s EBIT margins have fallen over the last twelve months, but the flat revenue sends a message of stability. Does that sound particularly bullish? No, it does not.
While profitability drives the upside, prudent investors always check the balance sheet, too.
Are Middlesex Water Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
It makes me feel more secure owning shares in a company if insiders also own shares, thusly more closely aligning our interests. So it is good to see that Middlesex Water insiders have a significant amount of capital invested in the stock. Indeed, they hold US$37m worth of its stock. That’s a lot of money, and no small incentive to work hard. Despite being just 3.7% 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 Middlesex Water with market caps between US$400m and US$1.6b is about US$2.7m.
The Middlesex Water CEO received US$1.4m in compensation for the year ending December 2018. 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.
Should You Add Middlesex Water To Your Watchlist?
One important encouraging feature of Middlesex Water is that it is growing profits. Earnings growth might be the main game for Middlesex Water, but the fun does not stop there. With a meaningful level of insider ownership, and reasonable CEO pay, a reasonable mind might conclude that this is one stock worth watching. Now, you could try to make up your mind on Middlesex Water by focusing on just these factors, or you could also consider how its price-to-earnings ratio compares to other companies in its industry.
You can invest in any company you want. But if you prefer to focus on stocks that have demonstrated insider buying, here is a list of companies with insider buying in the last three months.
Please note the insider transactions discussed in this article refer to reportable transactions in the relevant jurisdiction
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