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 Hologic (NAS: HOLX) 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 Hologic.
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 Hologic last year, the company hasn't been able to improve on its three-point score. The stock, though, hasn't disappointed investors, with a nice 30% gain over the past year.
Hologic is a medical-device maker that focuses on women's health, with products including mammography imaging systems, screening tests, and bone-density measurement devices. One example of a product recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration is its APTMIA HPV assay, which operates on the company's TIGRIS system to help detect types of HPV that lead to cervical cancer.
Hologic is far from the only company that serves patients in the particular areas it has chosen. In mammography, Siemens (NYS: SI) and General Electric (NYS: GE) are among several companies with competing digitial mammography systems. In diagnostics, Hologic's ThinPrep product has a direct competitor in Becton Dickinson (NYS: BDX) , while its clinical segment features big players including Siements, Becton, and Abbott Labs (NYS: ABT) .
Overall, Hologic has been able to hold its own in the industry, but investors aren't entirely happy with Hologic's strategic moves. In late April, the company announced a buyout of diagnostic test company Gen-Probe. With Hologic paying about $3.75 billion, the purchase price represented a 20% premium to Gen-Probe's closing price immediately before the buyout. Despite assurances that the deal will add to earnings with in the first year, Hologic shareholders bid the stock down sharply after the announcement.
For Hologic to gain ground, it needs to prove to investors that earnings enhancements will result from the takeover. Once more money starts flowing in, it should convince detractors that the buyout's synergies are for real. With potential headwinds coming from a medical-device tax, though, it's hard to see Hologic making much ground in the immediate future.
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.
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The article Has Hologic Become the Perfect Stock? originally appeared on Fool.com.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Becton Dickinson. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. 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 Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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