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 Honda Motor (NYS: HMC) 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 Honda Motor.
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%
3 out of 10
Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.
Since we looked at Honda Motor last year, the company has picked up a point. Yet while a small boost in current ratio is a nice thing to see, more important has been the recovery in revenue growth, which has helped give the stock a modest gain of around 5% in the past year.
Honda has had to deal with some huge issues in the past couple of years. With the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in early 2011, Honda and rival Toyota faced the monumental challenge of recovering from huge disruptions in supply chains and infrastructure. For the most part, they've done a good job of getting back to the starting block.
Unfortunately, the rest of the world hasn't been standing still. Despite facing problems in Europe, both Ford (NYS: F) and General Motors (NYS: GM) have benefited from a solid auto market in the U.S., and GM in particular has had great success in penetrating the lucrative Chinese auto market. Meanwhile, Tesla Motors (NAS: TSLA) has started making deliveries of its Model S all-electric vehicle, and while many are skeptical about whether electric vehicles will make huge inroads in the industry, it's still something that Honda has to take into consideration in building strategy.
Interestingly, one area where Honda may have a big advantage is in natural-gas-powered vehicles. Even as Clean Energy Fuels (NAS: CLNE) starts to build out infrastructure for natural gas fueling stations, Honda's natural-gas-powered Civic is regaining popularity, despite having been in existence since the late 1990s.
For Honda to keep improving, it needs a revolution in its way of thinking. Having developed a reputation for quality, Honda has coasted for a long time, and now the company needs to reinvigorate its innovation if it wants to stand out from the crowd once again.
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.
Taking advantage of Clean Energy Fuels could be a smart way for Honda to move forward. Learn everything you ought to know about the natural-gas infrastructure play in the Fool's latest premium report about Clean Energy Fuels. Each report includes a year's worth of free updates, so don't wait -- read yours today.
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The article Has Honda Motor Become the Perfect Stock? originally appeared on Fool.com.
Fool contributorDan Caplingerdoesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of General Motors, Tesla, Clean Energy Fuels, and Ford.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave also recommended creating a synthetic long position in Ford. 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.
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