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 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 the age of tech-stock blue-sky investing, my choice may seem old fashioned; I still prefer profitable companies like Admiral Group (LON:ADM). Even if the shares are fully valued today, most capitalists would recognize its profits as the demonstration of steady value generation. Conversely, a loss-making company is yet to prove itself with profit, and eventually the sweet milk of external capital may run sour.
How Fast Is Admiral Group 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. Admiral Group managed to grow EPS by 8.5% per year, over three years. That's a pretty good rate, if the company can sustain it.
Careful consideration of revenue growth and earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT) margins can help inform a view on the sustainability of the recent profit growth. Not all of Admiral Group's revenue this year is revenue from operations, so keep in mind the revenue and margin numbers I've used might not be the best representation of the underlying business. Admiral Group maintained stable EBIT margins over the last year, all while growing revenue 12% to UK£1.3b. That's progress.
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 Admiral Group.
Are Admiral Group Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
We would not expect to see insiders owning a large percentage of a UK£6.2b company like Admiral Group. But we do take comfort from the fact that they are investors in the company. Notably, they have an enormous stake in the company, worth UK£840m. Coming in at 13% of the business, that holding gives insiders a lot of influence, and plenty of reason to generate value for shareholders. Very encouraging.
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. I discovered that the median total compensation for the CEOs of companies like Admiral Group with market caps between UK£3.1b and UK£9.2b is about UK£2.6m.
The Admiral Group CEO received total compensation of just UK£404k in the year to December 2018. That's clearly well below average, so at a glance, that arrangement seems generous to shareholders, and points to a modest remuneration culture. CEO compensation is hardly the most important aspect of a company to consider, but when its reasonable that does give me a little more confidence that leadership are looking out for shareholder interests. It can also be a sign of a culture of integrity, in a broader sense.
Is Admiral Group Worth Keeping An Eye On?
As I already mentioned, Admiral Group is a growing business, which is what I like to see. The fact that EPS is growing is a genuine positive for Admiral Group, but the pretty picture gets better than that. Boasting both modest CEO pay and considerable insider ownership, I'd argue this one is worthy of the watchlist, at least. Of course, identifying quality businesses is only half the battle; investors need to know whether the stock is undervalued. So you might want to consider this free discounted cashflow valuation of Admiral Group.
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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