Is Amerigroup the Perfect Stock?

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Every investor would love to stumble upon the perfect stock. But will you ever really find a stock that provides everything you could possibly want?

One thing's for sure: You'll never discover truly great investments unless you actively look for them. Let's discuss the ideal qualities of a perfect stock, then decide if Amerigroup (NYS: AGP) fits the bill.

The quest for perfection
Stocks that look great based on one factor may prove horrible elsewhere, making due diligence a crucial part of your investing research. The best stocks excel in many different areas, including these important factors:

With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at Amerigroup.

Factor

What We Want to See

Actual

Pass or Fail?

Growth5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15%19.2%Pass
 1-Year Revenue Growth > 12%10.9%Fail
MarginsGross Margin > 35%18.5%Fail
 Net Margin > 15%4.6%Fail
Balance SheetDebt to Equity < 50%19.9%Pass
 Current Ratio > 1.30.94Fail
OpportunitiesReturn on Equity > 15%23.9%Pass
ValuationNormalized P/E < 209.14Pass
DividendsCurrent Yield > 2%0%Fail
 5-Year Dividend Growth > 10%0%Fail
    
 Total Score 4 out of 10

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Total score = number of passes.

Amerigroup doesn't look all that healthy with a score of only 4. The provider of managed health care has had to deal with the uncertainties of health-care reform, and now that a debt ceiling deal has gotten through, future cuts could be devastating.

Amerigroup is facing headwinds from all quarters right now. With states facing budget crises of their own, they're looking for ways to cut back on Medicaid expenditures. In Amerigroup's case, the state of Georgia adjusted premiums following the discovery that the insurer had double-billed for some of its services, forcing the insurer to take a one-time charge that led to a big drop-off in quarterly profits. The move has had a ripple effect across the industry, with WellCare (NYS: WCG) and other Medicaid providers falling as well.

The bigger issue may be on the federal side, though. Medicare announced an 11% reduction in rates for skilled nursing facilities, taking away any hope that a modest funding increase might occur. That's hit not only Amerigroup but also big providers like UnitedHealth (NYS: UNH) , Humana (NYS: HUM) , and WellPoint (NYS: WLP) , all of which could see less money coming from Medicare as a result of the moves.

Whether Amerigroup can climb back toward perfection depends largely on factors beyond its control. Until a true path for health care in the U.S. gets a whole lot clearer, it'll be tough for Amerigroup to become a perfect stock for investors.

Keep searching
No stock is a sure thing, but some stocks are a lot closer to perfect than others. By looking for the perfect stock, you'll go a long way toward improving your investing prowess and learning how to separate out the best investments from the rest.

Click hereto add Amerigroup to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

Finding the perfect stock is only one piece of a successful investment strategy. Get the big picture by taking a look at our13 Steps to Investing Foolishly.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorDan Caplingerdoesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article.The Motley Fool owns shares of UnitedHealth Group.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Amerigroup, WellPoint, and UnitedHealth Group, as well as creating a diagonal call position on UnitedHealth Group. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has adisclosure policy.

Copyright © 1995 - 2011 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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