Many investors define successful investing as beating the market average over the long term. But in any portfolio, there are likely to be some stocks that fall short of that benchmark. We regret to report that long term Saul Centers, Inc. (NYSE:BFS) shareholders have had that experience, with the share price dropping 24% in three years, versus a market return of about 50%. More recently, the share price has dropped a further 8.3% in a month.
To quote Buffett, ‘Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace…’ One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company’s share price and its earnings per share (EPS).
During the unfortunate three years of share price decline, Saul Centers actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) improve by 3.8% per year. Given the share price reaction, one might suspect that EPS is not a good guide to the business performance during the period (perhaps due to a one-off loss or gain). Alternatively, growth expectations may have been unreasonable in the past.
It’s pretty reasonable to suspect the market was previously to bullish on the stock, and has since moderated expectations. But it’s possible a look at other metrics will be enlightening.
Given the healthiness of the dividend payments, we doubt that they’ve concerned the market. Revenue has been pretty flat over three years, so that isn’t an obvious reason shareholders would sell. A closer look at revenue and profit trends might yield insights.
The image below shows how earnings and revenue have tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).
We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Even so, future earnings will be far more important to whether current shareholders make money. If you are thinking of buying or selling Saul Centers stock, you should check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.
What About Dividends?
When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. The TSR is a return calculation that accounts for the value of cash dividends (assuming that any dividend received was reinvested) and the calculated value of any discounted capital raisings and spin-offs. It’s fair to say that the TSR gives a more complete picture for stocks that pay a dividend. We note that for Saul Centers the TSR over the last 3 years was -15%, which is better than the share price return mentioned above. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
While the broader market gained around 23% in the last year, Saul Centers shareholders lost 11% (even including dividends) . Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. On the bright side, long term shareholders have made money, with a gain of 1.6% per year over half a decade. It could be that the recent sell-off is an opportunity, so it may be worth checking the fundamental data for signs of a long term growth trend. It’s always interesting to track share price performance over the longer term. But to understand Saul Centers better, we need to consider many other factors. Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We’ve identified 2 warning signs with Saul Centers , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
Saul Centers is not the only stock insiders are buying. So take a peek at this free list of growing companies with insider buying.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on US exchanges.
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.
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