EMC: A Tech Tortoise

Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? The hare gets off to a running start only to relax and let the tortoise slip past the finish line first. I'm reminded of that old tale this morning because of the apparent complaints from investors over the stock performance of EMC (NYSE: EMC  ) , which reported third-quarter 2005 earnings yesterday. The gripe, it seems, is that EMC's constantly improving business hasn't translated into a much higher stock price. Well, folks, boo-freaking-hoo.

Seriously. If you're really thinking so short-term that you're upset EMC hasn't moved 20% over the course of a few months, then -- and I mean this in the nicest possible way -- you should not have money in stocks. Period.

Besides, EMC's shares are up 9% over the past 52 weeks, according to Yahoo! Finance. That's market-beating performance, albeit marginally so. And, again, the underlying business is better than it was a year ago. Much better, in fact. A check of the numbers shows margins expanding and free cash steadily increasing to more than $1 billion through the first nine months of the year. With new products shipping in the fourth quarter, it's entirely possible that the number will jump to $1.5 billion.

You might think that's meaningless -- that EMC jumped the shark with yesterday's 4% move upwards. And I'll say again that I think you're wrong. Consider: The Wall Street Journal recently reported that corporate data storage capacity is expanding by 60% a year. That's big news for EMC for two reasons. First, the company is a storage hardware manufacturer, and its arrays aren't cheap. Second, and more importantly, EMC has crafted a sizeable position in storage management software through its acquisitions. It's this latter piece that's growing like gangbusters and aiding margins in the process. There's no sign it'll slow soon, either.

The bottom line is that if you invest long enough, you'll come to appreciate any stock that beats the market, even if it's only by a single percentage point. Those are the tortoises, and they can make you rich. Sure, the slender, speedy rabbit is sexier. But slow, steady, and predictable is just as attractive. And EMC is all three. I'll put my money on the turtle.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers has a daughter in preschool, and he can't get the "Turtle Song" out of his head. Help. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what's in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.


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