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 ESSA Bancorp (NASDAQ:ESSA). While that doesn’t make the shares worth buying at any price, you can’t deny that successful capitalism requires profit, eventually. In comparison, loss making companies act like a sponge for capital – but unlike such a sponge they do not always produce something when squeezed.
ESSA Bancorp’s Earnings Per Share Are 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. Over the last three years, ESSA Bancorp has grown EPS by 8.3% per year. That’s a good rate of growth, if it can be sustained.
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 ESSA Bancorp’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 ESSA Bancorp’s EBIT margins were flat over the last year, revenue grew by a solid 4.9% to US$53m. That’s a real positive.
Since ESSA Bancorp is no giant, with a market capitalization of US$165m, so you should definitely check its cash and debt before getting too excited about its prospects.
Are ESSA 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. So it is good to see that ESSA Bancorp insiders have a significant amount of capital invested in the stock. Indeed, they hold US$13m worth of its stock. That’s a lot of money, and no small incentive to work hard. Those holdings account for over 8.0% of the company; visible skin in the game.
It means a lot to see insiders invested in the business, but I find myself wondering if remuneration policies are shareholder friendly. A brief analysis of the CEO compensation suggests they are. I discovered that the median total compensation for the CEOs of companies like ESSA Bancorp with market caps between US$100m and US$400m is about US$1.2m.
The ESSA Bancorp CEO received US$724k in compensation for the year ending September 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. I’d also argue reasonable pay levels attest to good decision making more generally.
Does ESSA Bancorp Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?
One important encouraging feature of ESSA Bancorp is that it is growing profits. The fact that EPS is growing is a genuine positive for ESSA Bancorp, but the pretty picture gets better than that. With a meaningful level of insider ownership, and reasonable CEO pay, a reasonable mind might conclude that this is one stock worth watching. 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 ESSA Bancorp is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to 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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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.