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 West Pharmaceutical Services (NYSE:WST), which has not only revenues, but also profits. While profit is not necessarily a social good, it's easy to admire a business that can consistently produce it. Loss-making companies are always racing against time to reach financial sustainability, but time is often a friend of the profitable company, especially if it is growing.
How Quickly Is West Pharmaceutical Services Increasing Earnings Per Share?
The market is a voting machine in the short term, but a weighing machine in the long term, so share price follows earnings per share (EPS) eventually. That makes EPS growth an attractive quality for any company. Who among us would not applaud West Pharmaceutical Services's stratospheric annual EPS growth of 47%, compound, over the last three years? While that sort of growth rate isn't sustainable for long, it certainly catches my attention; like a crow with a sparkly stone.
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. The good news is that West Pharmaceutical Services is growing revenues, and EBIT margins improved by 5.6 percentage points to 22%, 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. Click on the chart to see the exact numbers.
Of course the knack is to find stocks that have their best days in the future, not in the past. You could base your opinion on past performance, of course, but you may also want to check this interactive graph of professional analyst EPS forecasts for West Pharmaceutical Services.
Are West Pharmaceutical Services Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
Since West Pharmaceutical Services has a market capitalization of US$27b, we wouldn't expect insiders to hold a large percentage of shares. But we are reassured by the fact they have invested in the company. Indeed, they have a glittering mountain of wealth invested in it, currently valued at US$173m. This suggests to me that leadership will be very mindful of shareholders' interests when making decisions!
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. For companies with market capitalizations over US$8.0b, like West Pharmaceutical Services, the median CEO pay is around US$11m.
West Pharmaceutical Services offered total compensation worth US$7.6m to its CEO in the year to . That seems pretty reasonable, especially given its below the median for similar sized companies. 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 good governance, more generally.
Is West Pharmaceutical Services Worth Keeping An Eye On?
West Pharmaceutical Services's earnings per share have taken off like a rocket aimed right at the moon. The cherry on top is that insiders own a bucket-load of shares, and the CEO pay seems really quite reasonable. The sharp increase in earnings could signal good business momentum. Big growth can make big winners, so I do think West Pharmaceutical Services is worth considering carefully. Even so, be aware that West Pharmaceutical Services is showing 1 warning sign in our investment analysis , you should know about...
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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What are the risks and opportunities for West Pharmaceutical Services?
Earnings are forecast to grow 8.79% per year
Earnings have grown 34.1% per year over the past 5 years
No risks detected for WST from our risks checks.
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West Pharmaceutical Services
West Pharmaceutical Services, Inc. designs, manufactures, and sells containment and delivery systems for injectable drugs and healthcare products in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia Pacific.
Flawless balance sheet with acceptable track record.