It might seem bad, but the worst that can happen when you buy a stock (without leverage) is that its share price goes to zero. But if you buy shares in a really great company, you can more than double your money. For instance the Greentown China Holdings Limited (HKG:3900) share price is 106% higher than it was three years ago. That sort of return is as solid as granite. Meanwhile the share price is 2.5% higher than it was a week ago.
With that in mind, it's worth seeing if the company's underlying fundamentals have been the driver of long term performance, or if there are some discrepancies.
In his essay The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville Warren Buffett described how share prices do not always rationally reflect the value of a business. One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.
During the three years of share price growth, Greentown China Holdings actually saw its earnings per share (EPS) drop 3.6% per year.
Given the share price resilience, we don't think the (declining) EPS numbers are a good measure of how the business is moving forward, right now. Since the change in EPS doesn't seem to correlate with the change in share price, it's worth taking a look at other metrics.
It may well be that Greentown China Holdings revenue growth rate of 8.4% over three years has convinced shareholders to believe in a brighter future. In that case, the company may be sacrificing current earnings per share to drive growth, and maybe shareholder's faith in better days ahead will be rewarded.
The image below shows how earnings and revenue have tracked over time (if you click on the image you can see greater detail).
We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Even so, future earnings will be far more important to whether current shareholders make money. You can see what analysts are predicting for Greentown China Holdings in this interactive graph of future profit estimates.
What About Dividends?
As well as measuring the share price return, investors should also consider the total shareholder return (TSR). The TSR incorporates the value of any spin-offs or discounted capital raisings, along with any dividends, based on the assumption that the dividends are reinvested. So for companies that pay a generous dividend, the TSR is often a lot higher than the share price return. As it happens, Greentown China Holdings' TSR for the last 3 years was 136%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.
A Different Perspective
We're pleased to report that Greentown China Holdings shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 19% over one year. That's including the dividend. However, the TSR over five years, coming in at 19% per year, is even more impressive. While it is well worth considering the different impacts that market conditions can have on the share price, there are other factors that are even more important. Take risks, for example - Greentown China Holdings has 3 warning signs (and 1 which is a bit unpleasant) we think you should know about.
Greentown China Holdings is not the only stock that insiders are buying. For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on HK exchanges.
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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.