When we invest, we're generally looking for stocks that outperform the market average. Buying under-rated businesses is one path to excess returns. For example, the ALS Limited (ASX:ALQ) share price is up 75% in the last 5 years, clearly besting the market return of around 15% (ignoring dividends).
So let's investigate and see if the longer term performance of the company has been in line with the underlying business' progress.
Check out our latest analysis for ALS
To quote Buffett, 'Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace...' One imperfect but simple way to consider how the market perception of a company has shifted is to compare the change in the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price movement.
Over half a decade, ALS managed to grow its earnings per share at 42% a year. This EPS growth is higher than the 12% average annual increase in the share price. So one could conclude that the broader market has become more cautious towards the stock.
You can see below how EPS has changed over time (discover the exact values by clicking on the image).
We consider it positive that insiders have made significant purchases in the last year. Even so, future earnings will be far more important to whether current shareholders make money. Before buying or selling a stock, we always recommend a close examination of historic growth trends, available here..
What About Dividends?
When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. In the case of ALS, it has a TSR of 99% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. The dividends paid by the company have thusly boosted the total shareholder return.
A Different Perspective
While the broader market gained around 0.2% in the last year, ALS shareholders lost 5.7% (even including dividends). Even the share prices of good stocks drop sometimes, but we want to see improvements in the fundamental metrics of a business, before getting too interested. Longer term investors wouldn't be so upset, since they would have made 15%, each year, over five years. If the fundamental data continues to indicate long term sustainable growth, the current sell-off could be an opportunity worth considering. I find it very interesting to look at share price over the long term as a proxy for business performance. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 2 warning signs with ALS , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
ALS is not the only stock that insiders are buying. For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.
Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on AU exchanges.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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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