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Analyst Blog

We often judge a company on the basis of its sales and earnings numbers. These, however, may not be just enough. Sometimes, a stock gets a boost if these numbers climb year over year or surpass estimates in a particular quarter. This will definitely be a great opportunity for a short horizon investor to cash in on. But if you seek long-term returns, investments backed only by sales and earnings numbers may not yield the desired results.

A critical analysis of a company’s financial background is a prerequisite for an informed investment decision. Here, coverage ratios that determine whether a company is sound enough to meet its financial obligations play a crucial role. The higher the ratio, the better it is. The focus of this article is on “Interest Coverage”, which is one such ratio.

Interest Coverage Ratio = Earnings before Interest & Taxes (EBIT) divided by Interest Expense.

Why Interest Coverage Ratio?

Interest Coverage Ratio is used to determine how effectively a company can pay the interest charges on its debt.

Debt, which is crucial for most of the companies to finance operations, comes at a cost called interest. Interest expense has a direct bearing on the profitability of a company and the company’s creditworthiness depends on how effectively it meets interest obligations. Therefore, Interest Coverage Ratio is one of the important criteria to factor in before making any investment decision.

Interest Coverage Ratio suggests the number of times the interest could be paid from earnings and also gauges the margin of safety a firm carries for paying interest.

An interest coverage ratio lower than 1.0 implies that the company is unable to fulfill its interest obligations and could default on repaying debt. A company that is capable of generating earnings well above its interest expense can withstand financial hardships. Definitely, one should also track the company’s past performance to determine whether the interest coverage ratio has improved or worsened over a period of time.

The Winning Strategy

Apart from having an Interest Coverage Ratio that is more than the industry average, adding a favorable Zacks Rank and a VGM Score of “A” or “B” to your search criteria should lead to better results.

Interest Coverage Ratio greater than X-Industry Median

Price greater than or equal to 5: The stocks must all be trading at a minimum of $5 or higher.

5-Year Historical EPS Growth (%) greater than X-Industry Median: Stocks that have a strong EPS growth history.

Projected EPS Growth (%) greater than X-Industry Median: This is the projected EPS growth over the next three to five years. This shows that the stock has near-term earnings growth potential.

Average 20-Day Volume greater than 100,000: A substantial trading volume ensures that the stock is easily tradable.

Zacks Rank less than or equal to 2: Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy) stocks are known to outperform irrespective of the market environment.

VGM Score of less than or equal to B: Our research shows that stocks with a VGM Score of ‘A’ or ‘B’ when combined with a Zacks Rank #1 or 2 offer the best upside potential. 

Here are seven of the 14 stocks that qualified the screening:

Marinemax Inc. (HZO - Free Report) , which operates as a recreational boat retailer, has a Zacks Rank #1 and a VGM score of “A”. The expected EPS growth rate for 3–5 years currently stands at 30%.

Francesca's Holdings Corporation (FRAN - Free Report) , which operates a chain of retail boutiques, has a VGM score of “B” and an expected EPS growth rate of 13.8% over 3–5 years. The stock flaunts a Zacks Rank #1. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. (HMC - Free Report) , which develops, manufactures, and distributes motorcycles, automobiles and power products globally, has a Zacks Rank #1 and a VGM score of “A”. The expected EPS growth rate for 3–5 years is presently 19.8%.

Magna International Inc. (MGA - Free Report) , a developer, manufacturer, supplier and seller of automotive products, has a Zacks Rank #2 and a VGM score of “A”. The expected EPS growth rate for 3–5 years currently stands at 11.7%.

The Marcus Corporation (MCS - Free Report) , a lodging and entertainment company, has a Zacks Rank #2 and a VGM score of “B”. The company’s expected EPS growth rate for 3–5 years is currently 15%.

Neenah Paper, Inc. (NP - Free Report) , a producer and seller of technical products and fine paper and packaging products globally, has a Zacks Rank #2 and a VGM score of “A”. The expected EPS growth rate for 3–5 years is currently 10%.

The Sherwin-Williams Company (SHW - Free Report) , a developer, manufacturer, distributor, and seller of paints, coatings, and related products, has a Zacks Rank #2 and a VGM score of “B”. The expected EPS growth rate for 3–5 years is pegged at 11.9%.

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Disclosure: Officers, directors and/or employees of Zacks Investment Research may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material. An affiliated investment advisory firm may own or have sold short securities and/or hold long and/or short positions in options that are mentioned in this material.

Disclosure: Performance information for Zacks’ portfolios and strategies are available at: https://www.zacks.com/performance.

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