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 SSE (LON:SSE), 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. Conversely, a loss-making company is yet to prove itself with profit, and eventually the sweet milk of external capital may run sour.
SSE's Improving Profits
Over the last three years, SSE 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. Thus, it makes sense to focus on more recent growth rates, instead. Like a firecracker arcing through the night sky, SSE's EPS shot from UK£0.97 to UK£2.54, over the last year. Year on year growth of 161% 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). The good news is that SSE is growing revenues, and EBIT margins improved by 21.1 percentage points to 39%, over the last year. Ticking those two boxes is a good sign of growth, in my book.
You can take a look at the company's revenue and earnings growth trend, in the chart below. To see the actual numbers, click on the chart.
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 SSE EPS 100% free.
Are SSE Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
Like that fresh smell in the air when the rains are coming, insider buying fills me with optimistic anticipation. That's because insider buying often indicates that those closest to the company have confidence that the share price will perform well. Of course, we can never be sure what insiders are thinking, we can only judge their actions.
The good news for SSE shareholders is that no insiders reported selling shares in the last year. So it's definitely nice that Independent Non-Executive Director Helen Mahy bought UK£20k worth of shares at an average price of around UK£15.44.
On top of the insider buying, it's good to see that SSE insiders have a valuable investment in the business. To be specific, they have UK£9.1m worth of shares. That's a lot of money, and no small incentive to work hard. Even though that's only about 0.05% of the company, it's enough money to indicate alignment between the leaders of the business and ordinary shareholders.
Should You Add SSE To Your Watchlist?
SSE's earnings per share growth have been levitating higher, like a mountain goat scaling the Alps. The incing on the cake is that insiders own a large chunk of the company and one has even been buying more shares. Because of the potential that it has reached an inflection point, I'd suggest SSE belongs on the top of your watchlist. Even so, be aware that SSE is showing 5 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 2 of those are a bit concerning...
As a growth investor I do like to see insider buying. But SSE isn't the only one. You can see a 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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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.