If You Like EPS Growth Then Check Out Southern (NYSE:SO) Before It’s Too Late

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.

If, on the other hand, you like companies that have revenue, and even earn profits, then you may well be interested in Southern (NYSE:SO). While profit is not necessarily a social good, it’s easy to admire a business than can consistently produce it. In comparison, loss making companies act like a sponge for capital – but unlike such a sponge they do not always produce something when squeezed.

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View our latest analysis for Southern

Southern’s Earnings Per Share Are Growing.

As one of my mentors once told me, share price follows earnings per share (EPS). That means EPS growth is considered a real positive by most successful long-term investors. We can see that in the last three years Southern grew its EPS by 8.4% per year. That growth rate is fairly good, assuming the company can keep it up.

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 Southern’s revenue from operations was lower than its revenue in the last twelve months, so that could distort my analysis of its margins. Southern’s EBIT margins have actually improved by 6.8 percentage points in the last year, to reach 17%, but, on the flip side, revenue was down 4.6%. That falls short of ideal.

In the chart below, you can see how the company has grown earnings, and revenue, over time. For finer detail, click on the image.

NYSE:SO Income Statement, May 22nd 2019
NYSE:SO Income Statement, May 22nd 2019

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 Southern.

Are Southern Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?

Since Southern has a market capitalization of US$56b, 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. With a whopping US$64m worth of shares as a group, insiders have plenty riding on the company’s success. That’s certainly enough to make me think that management will be very focussed on long term growth.

Should You Add Southern To Your Watchlist?

One important encouraging feature of Southern is that it is growing profits. If that’s not enough on its own, there is also the rather notable levels of insider ownership. That combination appeals to me, for one. So yes, I do think the stock is worth keeping an eye on. Of course, just because Southern 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.

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

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

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. Thank you for reading.