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 Warren Buffett has mused, ‘If you’ve been playing poker for half an hour and you still don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.’ When they buy such story stocks, investors are all too often the patsy.
In contrast to all that, I prefer to spend time on companies like Image Sensing Systems (NASDAQ:ISNS), which has not only revenues, but also profits. 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. In comparison, loss making companies act like a sponge for capital – but unlike such a sponge they do not always produce something when squeezed.
Image Sensing Systems’s Improving Profits
Over the last three years, Image Sensing Systems has grown earnings per share (EPS) like young bamboo after rain; fast, and from a low base. So I don’t think the percent growth rate is particularly meaningful. As a result, I’ll zoom in on growth over the last year, instead. Like the last firework on New Year’s Eve accelerating into the sky, Image Sensing Systems’s EPS shot from US$0.46 to US$1.15, over the last year. Year on year growth of 153% is certainly a sight to behold.
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). Unfortunately, revenue is down and so are margins. That is, not a hint of euphemism here, suboptimal.
You can take a look at the company’s revenue and earnings growth trend, in the chart below. Click on the chart to see the exact numbers.
Image Sensing Systems isn’t a huge company, given its market capitalization of US$19m. That makes it extra important to check on its balance sheet strength.
Are Image Sensing Systems Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
As a general rule, I think it worth considering how much the CEO is paid, since unreasonably high rates could be considered against the interests of shareholders. For companies with market capitalizations under US$200m, like Image Sensing Systems, the median CEO pay is around US$599k.
Image Sensing Systems offered total compensation worth US$318k to its CEO in the year to . That seems pretty reasonable, especially given its below the median for similar sized companies. 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.
Should You Add Image Sensing Systems To Your Watchlist?
Image Sensing Systems’s earnings have taken off like any random crypto-currency did, back in 2017. Such fast EPS growth makes me wonder if the business has hit an inflection point (and I mean the good kind.) At the same time the reasonable CEO compensation reflects well on the board of directors. So Image Sensing Systems looks like it could be a good quality growth stock, at first glance. That’s worth watching. You still need to take note of risks, for example – Image Sensing Systems has 2 warning signs (and 1 which can’t be ignored) we think you should know about.
Although Image Sensing Systems 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.
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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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