By Dan Caplinger,The Motley Fool
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 Celgene (CELG) 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:
Growth. Expanding businesses show healthy revenue growth. While past growth is no guarantee that revenue will keep rising, it's certainly a better sign than a stagnant top line.
Margins. Higher sales mean nothing if a company can't produce profits from them. Strong margins ensure that company can turn revenue into profit.
Balance sheet. At debt-laden companies, banks and bondholders compete with shareholders for management's attention. Companies with strong balance sheets don't have to worry about the distraction of debt.
Money-making opportunities. Return on equity helps measure how well a company is finding opportunities to turn its resources into profitable business endeavors.
Valuation. You can't afford to pay too much for even the best companies. By using normalized figures, you can see how a stock's simple earnings multiple fits into a longer-term context.
Dividends. For tangible proof of profits, a check to shareholders every three months can't be beat. Companies with solid dividends and strong commitments to increasing payouts treat shareholders well.
With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at Celgene.
Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Total score = number of passes
With a score of 7, Celgene puts in an impressive showing. The big biotech has shown plenty of strength in recent years, but it still needs future success to continue its quest for perfection.
Much of Celgene's success comes from its cancer drug Revlimid. Despite recent concerns that the drug may increase the incidence of secondary cancers, the drug still accounts for 70% of the company's revenue.
Where Celgene falls short on our 10-point scale is in its failure to pay a dividend, unlike big pharma stocks like Pfizer (PFE) and Merck (MRK) . Yet as Fool biotech expert Brian Orelli points out, companies like Celgene are better served if they can fund a blockbuster drug rather than simply returning capital to shareholders.
Celgene looks nearly perfect, but the reality in biotech and pharma is that companies need to keep performing year in and year out to maintain their edge. Even if you like Celgene, you'll want to keep a close eye on the company to make sure it keeps getting the job done.
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.
Finding the perfect stock is only one piece of a successful investment strategy. Get the big picture by taking a look at our 13 Steps to Investing Foolishly.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. 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 a disclosure policy.
What We Want to See
Pass or Fail?
5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15%
1-Year Revenue Growth > 12%
Gross Margin > 35%
Net Margin > 15%
Debt to Equity < 50%
Current Ratio > 1.3
Return on Equity > 15%
Normalized P/E < 20
Current Yield > 2%
5-Year Dividend Growth > 10%
7 out of 10
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