Here’s Why We Think Ashley Services Group (ASX:ASH) Is Well Worth Watching

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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 Ashley Services Group (ASX:ASH), 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. While a well funded company may sustain losses for years, unless its owners have an endless appetite for subsidizing the customer, it will need to generate a profit eventually, or else breathe its last breath.

Check out our latest analysis for Ashley Services Group

How Fast Is Ashley Services Group Growing Its Earnings Per Share?

Over the last three years, Ashley Services Group has grown earnings per share (EPS) like bamboo after rain; fast, and from a low base. So I don’t think the percent growth rate is particularly meaningful. Thus, it makes sense to focus on more recent growth rates, instead. Like the last firework on New Year’s Eve accelerating into the sky, Ashley Services Group’s EPS shot from AU$0.012 to AU$0.037, over the last year. Year on year growth of 196% is certainly a sight to behold.

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. While Ashley Services Group may have maintained EBIT margins over the last year, revenue has fallen. Suffice it to say that is not a great sign of growth.

You can take a look at the company’s revenue and earnings growth trend, in the chart below. For finer detail, click on the image.

ASX:ASH Income Statement, May 13th 2019
ASX:ASH Income Statement, May 13th 2019

Ashley Services Group isn’t a huge company, given its market capitalization of AU$37m. That makes it extra important to check on its balance sheet strength.

Are Ashley Services Group Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?

Many consider high insider ownership to be a strong sign of alignment between the leaders of a company and the ordinary shareholders. So we’re pleased to report that Ashley Services Group insiders own a meaningful share of the business. Indeed, with a collective holding of 65%, company insiders are in control and have plenty of capital behind the venture. To me this is a good sign because it suggests they will be incentivised to build value for shareholders over the long term. With that sort of holding, insiders have about AU$24m riding on the stock, at current prices. That’s nothing to sneeze at!

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 Ashley Services Group with market caps under AU$286m is about AU$354k.

Ashley Services Group offered total compensation worth AU$300k to its CEO in the year to June 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 Ashley Services Group Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?

Ashley Services Group’s earnings have taken off like any random crypto-currency did, back in 2017. The sweetener is that insiders have a mountain of stock, and the CEO remuneration is quite reasonable. The strong EPS improvement suggests the businesses is humming along. Ashley Services Group certainly ticks a few of my boxes, so I think it’s probably well worth further consideration. 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 Ashley Services Group. You might benefit from giving it a glance today.

Although Ashley Services Group 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.