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Here is Why Growth Investors Should Buy First Bancorp (FBP) Now

Zacks Equity Research

Investors seek growth stocks to capitalize on above-average growth in financials that help these securities grab the market's attention and produce exceptional returns. But finding a growth stock that can live up to its true potential can be a tough task.

By their very nature, these stocks carry above-average risk and volatility. Moreover, if a company's growth story is over or nearing its end, betting on it could lead to significant loss.

However, it's pretty easy to find cutting-edge growth stocks with the help of the Zacks Growth Style Score (part of the Zacks Style Scores system), which looks beyond the traditional growth attributes to analyze a company's real growth prospects.

First Bancorp (FBP) is on the list of such stocks currently recommended by our proprietary system. In addition to a favorable Growth Score, it carries a top Zacks Rank.

Research shows that stocks carrying the best growth features consistently beat the market. And returns are even better for stocks that possess the combination of a Growth Score of A or B and a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy).

Here are three of the most important factors that make the stock of this holding company for FirstBank Puerto Rico a great growth pick right now.

Earnings Growth

Earnings growth is arguably the most important factor, as stocks exhibiting exceptionally surging profit levels tend to attract the attention of most investors. For growth investors, double-digit earnings growth is highly preferable, as it is often perceived as an indication of strong prospects (and stock price gains) for the company under consideration.

While the historical EPS growth rate for First Bancorp is 17.5%, investors should actually focus on the projected growth. The company's EPS is expected to grow 23.4% this year, crushing the industry average, which calls for EPS growth of 5.3%.

Impressive Asset Utilization Ratio

Asset utilization ratio -- also known as sales-to-total-assets (S/TA) ratio -- is often overlooked by investors, but it is an important indicator in growth investing. This metric exhibits how efficiently a firm is utilizing its assets to generate sales.

Right now, First Bancorp has an S/TA ratio of 0.06, which means that the company gets $0.06 in sales for each dollar in assets. Comparing this to the industry average of 0.05, it can be said that the company is more efficient.

In addition to efficiency in generating sales, sales growth plays an important role. And First Bancorp is well positioned from a sales growth perspective too. The company's sales are expected to grow 10.1% this year versus the industry average of 0%.

Promising Earnings Estimate Revisions

Beyond the metrics outlined above, investors should consider the trend in earnings estimate revisions. A positive trend is a plus here. Empirical research shows that there is a strong correlation between trends in earnings estimate revisions and near-term stock price movements.

There have been upward revisions in current-year earnings estimates for First Bancorp. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has surged 3.4% over the past month.

Bottom Line

First Bancorp has not only earned a Growth Score of B based on a number of factors, including the ones discussed above, but it also carries a Zacks Rank #2 because of the positive earnings estimate revisions.

You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

This combination positions First Bancorp well for outperformance, so growth investors may want to bet on it.


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