Some have more dollars than sense, they say, so even companies that have no revenue, no profit, and a record of falling short, can easily find investors. Unfortunately, high risk investments often have little probability of ever paying off, and many investors pay a price to learn their lesson.
In the age of tech-stock blue-sky investing, my choice may seem old fashioned; I still prefer profitable companies like Steppe Cement (LON:STCM). 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. 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.
How Fast Is Steppe Cement Growing Its Earnings Per Share?
In a capitalist society capital chases profits, and that means share prices tend rise with earnings per share (EPS). So like a ray of sunshine through a gap in the clouds, improving EPS is considered a good sign. It is therefore awe-striking that Steppe Cement’s EPS went from US$0.0081 to US$0.054 in just one year. Even though that growth rate is unlikely to be repeated, that looks like a breakout improvement. But the key is discerning whether something profound has changed, or if this is a just a one-off boost.
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. Steppe Cement shareholders can take confidence from the fact that EBIT margins are up from 6.4% to 19%, and revenue is growing. Ticking those two boxes is a good sign of growth, in my book.
The chart below shows how the company’s bottom and top lines have progressed over time.
Since Steppe Cement is no giant, with a market capitalization of UK£61m, so you should definitely check its cash and debt before getting too excited about its prospects.
Are Steppe Cement 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 under US$200m, like Steppe Cement, the median CEO pay is around US$325k.
The CEO of Steppe Cement was paid just US$30k in total compensation for the year ending December 2018. You could consider this pay as somewhat symbolic, which suggests the CEO does not need a lot of compensation to stay motivated. 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. It can also be a sign of good governance, more generally.
Should You Add Steppe Cement To Your Watchlist?
Steppe Cement’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.) At the same time the reasonable CEO compensation reflects well on the board of directors. So Steppe Cement looks like it could be a good quality growth stock, at first glance. That’s worth watching. Of course, just because Steppe Cement is growing does not mean it is undervalued. If you’re wondering about the valuation, check out this gauge of its price-to-earnings ratio, as compared to its industry.
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
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