Like a puppy chasing its tail, some new investors often chase 'the next big thing', even if that means buying 'story stocks' without revenue, let alone profit. Unfortunately, high risk investments often have little probability of ever paying off, and many investors pay a price to learn their lesson.
In contrast to all that, I prefer to spend time on companies like Markel (NYSE:MKL), 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. 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 Markel Growing?
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 means EPS growth is considered a real positive by most successful long-term investors. It certainly is nice to see that Markel has managed to grow EPS by 33% per year over three years. If the company can sustain that sort of growth, we'd expect shareholders to come away winners.
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). I note that Markel's revenue from operations was lower than its revenue in the last twelve months, so that could distort my analysis of its margins. Markel shareholders can take confidence from the fact that EBIT margins are up from 9.9% to 26%, and revenue is growing. Ticking those two boxes is a good sign of growth, in my book.
The chart below shows how the company's bottom and top lines have progressed over time. To see the actual numbers, click on the chart.
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 Markel's future profits.
Are Markel Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
We would not expect to see insiders owning a large percentage of a US$17b company like Markel. But we are reassured by the fact they have invested in the company. Notably, they have an enormous stake in the company, worth US$372m. This suggests to me that leadership will be very mindful of shareholders' interests when making decisions!
It's good to see that insiders are invested in the company, but are remuneration levels reasonable? 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 Markel, with market caps over US$8.0b, is about US$11m.
The Markel CEO received total compensation of just US$4.2m in the year to . That's clearly well below average, so at a glance, that arrangement seems generous to shareholders, and points to a modest remuneration culture. 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. I'd also argue reasonable pay levels attest to good decision making more generally.
Should You Add Markel To Your Watchlist?
You can't deny that Markel has grown its earnings per share at a very impressive rate. That's attractive. If that's not enough, consider also that the CEO pay is quite reasonable, and insiders are well-invested alongside other shareholders. Each to their own, but I think all this makes Markel look rather interesting indeed. It's still necessary to consider the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 2 warning signs with Markel (at least 1 which is a bit concerning) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
You can invest in any company you want. But if you prefer to focus on stocks that have demonstrated insider buying, here is a list of companies with insider buying in the last three months.
Please note the insider transactions discussed in this article refer to reportable transactions in the relevant jurisdiction.
What are the risks and opportunities for Markel?
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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.
Markel Corporation, a diverse financial holding company, markets and underwrites specialty insurance products in the United States, Bermuda, the United Kingdom, rest of Europe, Canada, the Asia Pacific, and the Middle East.
Reasonable growth potential with mediocre balance sheet.