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 Quality Systems (NAS: QSII) 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 Quality Systems.
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%
8 out of 10
Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.
With a score of eight, Quality Systems comes pretty close to perfection already. But the company's shares have taken a huge tumble in recent months, losing nearly a third of their value since late September.
Quality Systems serves the health-care industry with its health information systems. By streamlining communication among providers, Quality Systems attempts to make it easier for medical professionals to serve patients more efficiently and effectively. Along with peers like Athenahealth (NAS: ATHN) and Allscripts Healthcare (NAS: MDRX) , Quality Systems benefited from government stimulus money and its push toward electronic medical records.
However, Quality Systems faces a lot of competition. For instance, in October, a Deutsche Bank analyst picked peer MedAssets (NAS: MDAS) as its top pick over other health-care tech companies including Cerner (NAS: CERN) , Computer Programs & Systems (NAS: CPSI) , and Quality Systems, all of which reported disappointing earnings in Deutsche Bank's view.
Overall, though, Quality Systems has given investors most of what they want: strong growth, a healthy balance sheet, and good dividends. With founder Sheldon Razin maintaining a big insider stake, you can expect good treatment for shareholders for the foreseeable future. Even though Quality Systems falls a little short of perfection, it still looks like a strong pick -- especially if it can develop a competitive advantage over its peers.
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 the best investments from the rest.
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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Quality Systems and Athenahealth. 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.
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