Long term investing can be life changing when you buy and hold the truly great businesses. And highest quality companies can see their share prices grow by huge amounts. For example, the Mainfreight Limited (NZSE:MFT) share price is up a whopping 435% in the last half decade, a handsome return for long term holders. And this is just one example of the epic gains achieved by some long term investors. It's also good to see the share price up 24% over the last quarter.
The past week has proven to be lucrative for Mainfreight investors, so let's see if fundamentals drove the company's five-year performance.
To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' By comparing earnings per share (EPS) and share price changes over time, we can get a feel for how investor attitudes to a company have morphed over time.
Over half a decade, Mainfreight managed to grow its earnings per share at 16% a year. This EPS growth is slower than the share price growth of 40% per year, over the same period. So it's fair to assume the market has a higher opinion of the business than it did five years ago. That's not necessarily surprising considering the five-year track record of earnings growth. This optimism is visible in its fairly high P/E ratio of 50.86.
The company's earnings per share (over time) is depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).
It's probably worth noting we've seen significant insider buying in the last quarter, which we consider a positive. That said, we think earnings and revenue growth trends are even more important factors to consider. This free interactive report on Mainfreight's earnings, revenue and cash flow is a great place to start, if you want to investigate the stock further.
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. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. As it happens, Mainfreight's TSR for the last 5 years was 486%, which exceeds the share price return mentioned earlier. This is largely a result of its dividend payments!
A Different Perspective
We're pleased to report that Mainfreight shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 106% over one year. Of course, that includes the dividend. That gain is better than the annual TSR over five years, which is 42%. Therefore it seems like sentiment around the company has been positive lately. Someone with an optimistic perspective could view the recent improvement in TSR as indicating that the business itself is getting better with time. 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 - Mainfreight has 1 warning sign we think you should be aware of.
Mainfreight 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 NZ 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.
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