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 Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO). 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.
See our latest analysis for Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola’s Earnings Per Share Are 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. Therefore, there are plenty of investors who like to buy shares in companies that are growing EPS. Impressively, Coca-Cola has grown EPS by 22% per year, compound, in the last three years. As a general rule, we’d say that if a company can keep up that sort of growth, shareholders will be smiling.
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). While Coca-Cola may have maintained EBIT margins over the last year, revenue has fallen. And that does make me a little more cautious of the stock.
In the chart below, you can see how the company has grown earnings, and revenue, over time. To see the actual numbers, click on the chart.
Fortunately, we’ve got access to analyst forecasts of Coca-Cola’s future profits. You can do your own forecasts without looking, or you can take a peek at what the professionals are predicting.
Are Coca-Cola Insiders Aligned With All Shareholders?
We would not expect to see insiders owning a large percentage of a US$207b company like Coca-Cola. But we are reassured by the fact they have invested in the company. Notably, they have an enormous stake in the company, worth US$1.3b. This suggests to me that leadership will be very mindful of shareholders’ interests when making decisions!
Does Coca-Cola Deserve A Spot On Your Watchlist?
Given my belief that share price follows earnings per share you can easily imagine how I feel about Coca-Cola’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. So this is very likely the kind of business that I like to spend time researching, with a view to discerning its true value. It’s still necessary to consider the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We’ve identified 2 warning signs with Coca-Cola (at least 1 which is a bit concerning) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
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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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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