Here’s Why We Think First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC) Is Well Worth Watching

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 contrast to all that, I prefer to spend time on companies like First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC), which has not only revenues, but also profits. Even if the shares are fully valued today, most capitalists would recognize its profits as the demonstration of steady value generation. 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.

Check out our latest analysis for First Financial Bancorp

How Fast Is First Financial Bancorp 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). It’s no surprise, then, that I like to invest in companies with EPS growth. Over the last three years, First Financial Bancorp has grown EPS by 16% per year. That growth rate is fairly good, assuming the company can keep it up.

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). Not all of First Financial Bancorp’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 Financial Bancorp maintained stable EBIT margins over the last year, all while growing revenue 44% to US$584m. That’s a real positive.

The chart below shows how the company’s bottom and top lines have progressed over time.

NasdaqGS:FFBC Income Statement, October 2nd 2019
NasdaqGS:FFBC Income Statement, October 2nd 2019

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 Financial Bancorp EPS 100% free.

Are First Financial Bancorp 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. As a result, I’m encouraged by the fact that insiders own First Financial Bancorp shares worth a considerable sum. With a whopping US$51m worth of shares as a group, insiders have plenty riding on the company’s success. 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? Well, based on the CEO pay, I’d say they are indeed. For companies with market capitalizations between US$2.0b and US$6.4b, like First Financial Bancorp, the median CEO pay is around US$5.1m.

The First Financial Bancorp CEO received total compensation of just US$2.5m in the year to December 2018. That looks like modest pay to me, and may hint at a certain respect for the interests of shareholders. 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 good governance, more generally.

Does First Financial Bancorp Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?

As I already mentioned, First Financial Bancorp is a growing business, which is what I like to see. Earnings growth might be the main game for First Financial Bancorp, 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. 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 First Financial Bancorp. You might benefit from giving it a glance today.

Although First Financial Bancorp 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.