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It’s only natural that many investors, especially those who are new to the game, prefer to buy shares in ‘sexy’ stocks with a good story, even if those businesses lose money. But the reality is that when a company loses money each year, for long enough, its investors will usually take their share of those losses.
If, on the other hand, you like companies that have revenue, and even earn profits, then you may well be interested in Energy Recovery (NASDAQ:ERII). While profit is not necessarily a social good, it’s easy to admire a business than can consistently produce it. While a well funded company may sustain losses for years, unless its owners have an endless appetite for subsidizing the customer, it will need to generate a profit eventually, or else breathe its last breath.
How Fast Is Energy Recovery Growing Its Earnings Per Share?
In the last three years Energy Recovery’s earnings per share took off like a rocket; fast, and from a low base. So the actual rate of growth doesn’t tell us much. Thus, it makes sense to focus on more recent growth rates, instead. Like a wedge-tailed eagle on the wind, Energy Recovery’s EPS soared from US$0.32 to US$0.47, in just one year. That’s a impressive gain of 48%.
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). Energy Recovery shareholders can take confidence from the fact that EBIT margins are up from 12% to 17%, and revenue is growing. That’s great to see, on both counts.
You can take a look at the company’s revenue and earnings growth trend, in the chart below. For finer detail, click on the image.
You don’t drive with your eyes on the rear-view mirror, so you might be more interested in this free report showing analyst forecasts for Energy Recovery’s future profits.
Are Energy Recovery 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. So it is good to see that Energy Recovery insiders have a significant amount of capital invested in the stock. Indeed, they hold US$25m worth of its stock. That’s a lot of money, and no small incentive to work hard. Despite being just 4.5% of the company, the value of that investment is enough to show insiders have plenty riding on the venture.
It means a lot to see insiders invested in the business, but I find myself wondering if remuneration policies are shareholder friendly. A brief analysis of the CEO compensation suggests they are. For companies with market capitalizations between US$200m and US$800m, like Energy Recovery, the median CEO pay is around US$1.8m.
Energy Recovery offered total compensation worth US$1.1m 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. 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 a culture of integrity, in a broader sense.
Does Energy Recovery Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?
For growth investors like me, Energy Recovery’s raw rate of earnings growth is a beacon in the night. If you need more convincing beyond that EPS growth rate, don’t forget about the reasonable remuneration and the high insider ownership. This may only be a fast rundown, but the takeaway for me is that Energy Recovery is worth keeping an eye on. Of course, just because Energy Recovery 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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