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.
In the age of tech-stock blue-sky investing, my choice may seem old fashioned; I still prefer profitable companies like ZTO Express (Cayman) (NYSE:ZTO). Now, I'm not saying that the stock is necessarily undervalued today; but I can't shake an appreciation for the profitability of the business itself. In comparison, loss making companies act like a sponge for capital - but unlike such a sponge they do not always produce something when squeezed.
ZTO Express (Cayman)'s Earnings Per Share Are Growing.
If a company can keep growing earnings per share (EPS) long enough, its share price will eventually follow. That makes EPS growth an attractive quality for any company. It certainly is nice to see that ZTO Express (Cayman) has managed to grow EPS by 23% per year over three years. As a general rule, we'd say that if a company can keep up that sort of growth, shareholders will be smiling.
One way to double-check a company's growth is to look at how its revenue, and earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) margins are changing. While ZTO Express (Cayman) did well to grow revenue over the last year, EBIT margins were dampened at the same time. So if EBIT margins can stabilize, this top-line growth should pay off for shareholders.
The chart below shows how the company's bottom and top lines have progressed over time. For finer detail, click on the image.
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 ZTO Express (Cayman).
Are ZTO Express (Cayman) Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
Personally, I like to see high insider ownership of a company, since it suggests that it will be managed in the interests of shareholders. So as you can imagine, the fact that ZTO Express (Cayman) insiders own a significant number of shares certainly appeals to me. In fact, they own 41% of the shares, making insiders a very influential shareholder group. I'm always comforted by solid insider ownership like this, as it implies that those running the business are genuinely motivated to create shareholder value. And their holding is extremely valuable at the current share price, totalling CN¥9.5b. Now that's what I call some serious skin in the game!
Is ZTO Express (Cayman) Worth Keeping An Eye On?
Given my belief that share price follows earnings per share you can easily imagine how I feel about ZTO Express (Cayman)'s strong EPS growth. Further, the high level of insider ownership impresses me, and suggests that I'm not the only one who appreciates the EPS growth. Fast growth and confident insiders should be enough to warrant further research. So the answer is that I do think this is a good stock to follow along with. However, before you get too excited we've discovered 2 warning signs for ZTO Express (Cayman) (1 is concerning!) that you should be aware of.
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.
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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. 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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