Here’s Why We Think Waterstone Financial (NASDAQ:WSBF) Is Well Worth Watching

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. Unfortunately, high risk investments often have little probability of ever paying off, and many investors pay a price to learn their lesson.

So if you’re like me, you might be more interested in profitable, growing companies, like Waterstone Financial (NASDAQ:WSBF). Even if the shares are fully valued today, most capitalists would recognize its profits as the demonstration of steady value generation. In comparison, loss making companies act like a sponge for capital – but unlike such a sponge they do not always produce something when squeezed.

See our latest analysis for Waterstone Financial

Waterstone Financial’s Earnings Per Share Are Growing.

If you believe that markets are even vaguely efficient, then over the long term you’d expect a company’s share price to follow its earnings per share (EPS). It’s no surprise, then, that I like to invest in companies with EPS growth. We can see that in the last three years Waterstone Financial grew its EPS by 15% per year. That growth rate is fairly good, assuming the company can keep it up.

I like to take a look at earnings before interest and (EBIT) tax margins, as well as revenue growth, to get another take on the quality of the company’s growth. I note that Waterstone Financial’s revenue from operations was lower than its revenue in the last twelve months, so that could distort my analysis of its margins. Waterstone Financial reported flat revenue and EBIT margins over the last year. That’s not bad, but it doesn’t point to ongoing future growth, either.

The chart below shows how the company’s bottom and top lines have progressed over time. For finer detail, click on the image.

NasdaqGS:WSBF Income Statement, January 16th 2020
NasdaqGS:WSBF Income Statement, January 16th 2020

While profitability drives the upside, prudent investors always check the balance sheet, too.

Are Waterstone Financial Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?

I like company leaders to have some skin in the game, so to speak, because it increases alignment of incentives between the people running the business, and its true owners. As a result, I’m encouraged by the fact that insiders own Waterstone Financial shares worth a considerable sum. To be specific, they have US$26m worth of shares. That shows significant buy-in, and may indicate conviction in the business strategy. That amounts to 5.6% of the company, demonstrating a degree of high-level alignment with shareholders.

It means a lot to see insiders invested in the business, but I find myself wondering if remuneration policies are shareholder friendly. Well, based on the CEO pay, I’d say they are indeed. I discovered that the median total compensation for the CEOs of companies like Waterstone Financial with market caps between US$200m and US$800m is about US$1.7m.

Waterstone Financial offered total compensation worth US$988k to its CEO in the year to December 2018. That comes in below the average for similar sized companies, and seems pretty reasonable to me. While the level of CEO compensation isn’t a huge factor in my view of the company, modest remuneration is a positive, because it suggests that the board keeps shareholder interests in mind. It can also be a sign of good governance, more generally.

Is Waterstone Financial Worth Keeping An Eye On?

One positive for Waterstone Financial is that it is growing EPS. That’s nice to see. The fact that EPS is growing is a genuine positive for Waterstone Financial, but the pretty picture gets better than that. With a meaningful level of insider ownership, and reasonable CEO pay, a reasonable mind might conclude that this is one stock worth watching. While we’ve looked at the quality of the earnings, we haven’t yet done any work to value the stock. So if you like to buy cheap, you may want to check if Waterstone Financial is trading on a high P/E or a low P/E, relative to its industry.

Although Waterstone Financial certainly looks good to me, I would like it more if insiders were buying up shares. If you like to see insider buying, too, then this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying, could be exactly what you’re looking for.

Please note the insider transactions discussed in this article refer to reportable transactions in the relevant jurisdiction

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.

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