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. And in their study titled Who Falls Prey to the Wolf of Wall Street?' Leuz et. al. found that it is 'quite common' for investors to lose money by buying into 'pump and dump' schemes.
If, on the other hand, you like companies that have revenue, and even earn profits, then you may well be interested in ALS (ASX:ALQ). While profit is not necessarily a social good, it's easy to admire a business than can consistently produce it. 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.
ALS's Improving Profits
Over the last three years, ALS 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 a firecracker arcing through the night sky, ALS's EPS shot from AU$0.13 to AU$0.34, over the last year. You don't see 161% year-on-year growth like that, very often.
Careful consideration of revenue growth and earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT) margins can help inform a view on the sustainability of the recent profit growth. While we note ALS's EBIT margins were flat over the last year, revenue grew by a solid 15% to AU$1.7b. That's progress.
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 ALS EPS 100% free.
Are ALS 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. I discovered that the median total compensation for the CEOs of companies like ALS with market caps between AU$3.0b and AU$9.5b is about AU$3.4m.
ALS offered total compensation worth AU$2.9m to its CEO in the year to March 2019. That comes in below the average for similar sized companies, and seems pretty reasonable to me. CEO compensation is hardly the most important aspect of a company to consider, but when its reasonable that does give me a little more confidence that leadership are looking out for shareholder interests. I'd also argue reasonable pay levels attest to good decision making more generally.
Does ALS Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?
ALS's earnings per share growth have been levitating higher, like a mountain goat scaling the Alps. Such fast EPS growth makes me wonder if the business has hit an inflection point (and I mean the good kind.) Meanwhile, the very reasonable CEO pay reassures me a little, since it points to an absence profligacy. So ALS looks like it could be a good quality growth stock, at first glance. That's 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 ALS is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to its industry.
Although ALS 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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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.