Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Five Rules for Successful Stock Investing 7

Analyzing a Company – The Basics

Because [analyzing companies] can be a daunting task, I suggest that you break down the process into five areas:
  1. Growth: How fast has the company grown, what are the sources of its growth, and how sustainable is that growth likely to be?
  2. Profitability: What kind of returns does the company generate on the capital it invests?
  3. Financial health: How solid is the firm's financial footing?
  4. Risks/bear case: What are the risks to your investment case? There are excellent reasons not to invest in even the best-looking firms. Make sure you look at the full story and investigate the negatives as well as the positives.
  5. Management: Who's running the show? Are they running the company for the benefits of shareholders or themselves?
You can't just look at a series of past growth rates and assume that they'll predict the future [...]. It's critical to investigate the sources of a company's growth rate and assess the quality of the growth. High-quality growth that comes from selling more goods and entering new markets is more sustainable than low-quality growth that's generated by cost-cutting or accounting tricks.

In the long run, sales growth drives earnings growth. Although profit growth can outpace sales growth for a while if a company is able to do an excellent job cutting costs or fiddling with the financial statements, this kind of situation simply isn't sustainable over the long haul – there's a limit to how much costs can be cut, and there are only so many financial tricks that companies can use to boost the bottom line. In general, sales growth stems from one of four areas:
  1. Selling more goods or services
  2. Raising prices
  3. Selling new goods or services
  4. Buying another company
If you don't know how fast the company would have grown without acquisitions, don't buy the shares – because you never know when the acquisitions will stop. Remember, the goal of a successful investor is to buy great businesses, not successful merger and acquisition machines.

The first component of ROA (Return on Assets) is simply net margin, or net income divided by sales, and it tells us how much of each dollar of sales a company keeps as earnings after paying all the costs of doing business. The second component is asset turnover, or sales divided by assets, which tells us roughly how efficient a firm is at generating revenue from each dollar of assets. Multiply these two together, and you have return on assets, which is simply the amount of profits that a company is able to generate per dollar of assets. Think of ROA as a measure of efficiency. Companies with high ROAs are better at translating assets into profits.

ROA helps us understand that there are two routes to excellent operational profitability: You can charge high prices for your products (high margins), or you can turn over your assets quickly.

Return on equity (ROE) is a great overall measure of a company's profitability because it measures the efficiency with which a company uses shareholders' equity – in other words, it measures how good the company is at earning a decent return on the shareholder's money.


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