Like a puppy chasing its tail, some new investors often chase 'the next big thing', even if that means buying 'story stocks' without revenue, let alone 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.
In contrast to all that, I prefer to spend time on companies like Hapag-Lloyd (ETR:HLAG), which has not only revenues, but also profits. While profit is not necessarily a social good, it's easy to admire a business that 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.
Hapag-Lloyd's Improving Profits
In business, though not in life, profits are a key measure of success; and share prices tend to reflect earnings per share (EPS). So like the hint of a smile on a face that I love, growing EPS generally makes me look twice. You can imagine, then, that it almost knocked my socks off when I realized that Hapag-Lloyd grew its EPS from €2.86 to €19.16, in one short year. When you see earnings grow that quickly, it often means good things ahead for the company. But the key is discerning whether something profound has changed, or if this is a just a one-off boost.
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). Hapag-Lloyd shareholders can take confidence from the fact that EBIT margins are up from 7.0% to 25%, and revenue is growing. That's great to see, on both counts.
The chart below shows how the company's bottom and top lines have progressed over time. Click on the chart to see the exact numbers.
Of course the knack is to find stocks that have their best days in the future, not in the past. You could base your opinion on past performance, of course, but you may also want to check this interactive graph of professional analyst EPS forecasts for Hapag-Lloyd.
Are Hapag-Lloyd Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
I always like to check up on CEO compensation, because I think that reasonable pay levels, around or below the median, can be a sign that shareholder interests are well considered. For companies with market capitalizations over €6.9b, like Hapag-Lloyd, the median CEO pay is around €4.1m.
The Hapag-Lloyd CEO received €2.5m in compensation for the year ending . That seems pretty reasonable, especially given its below the median for similar sized companies. 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. It can also be a sign of a culture of integrity, in a broader sense.
Is Hapag-Lloyd Worth Keeping An Eye On?
Hapag-Lloyd'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 Hapag-Lloyd looks like it could be a good quality growth stock, at first glance. That's worth watching. It is worth noting though that we have found 2 warning signs for Hapag-Lloyd (1 doesn't sit too well with us!) that you need to take into consideration.
Of course, you can do well (sometimes) buying stocks that are not growing earnings and do not have insiders buying shares. But as a growth investor I always like to check out companies that do have those features. You can access a free list of them here.
Please note the insider transactions discussed in this article refer to reportable transactions in the relevant jurisdiction.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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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