Has Pfizer Become the Perfect Stock?

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 Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) 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 Pfizer.

Factor

What We Want to See

Actual

Pass or Fail?

Growth

5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15%

7.3%

Fail

 

1-Year Revenue Growth > 12%

3.6%

Fail

Margins

Gross Margin > 35%

77.7%

Pass

 

Net Margin > 15%

16.7%

Pass

Balance Sheet

Debt to Equity < 50%

46.9%

Pass

 

Current Ratio > 1.3

1.98

Pass

Opportunities

Return on Equity > 15%

9.8%

Fail

Valuation

Normalized P/E < 20

13.51

Pass

Dividends

Current Yield > 2%

4.1%

Pass

 

5-Year Dividend Growth > 10%

(3%)

Fail

       
 

Total Score

 

6 out of 10

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.

Since we looked at Pfizer last year, the company has picked up a point, thanks to a slight reduction in its debt-to-equity ratio. Nevertheless, the pharma giant still faces the challenge of patent expirations that could outpace its pipeline development.

This is the scary moment that Pfizer investors have been dreading: Lipitor is set to go off-patent later this month, opening itself up to generic competition from Watson Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: WPI  ) . After a six-month exclusivity period, other generic-makers like Teva Pharmaceutical (Nasdaq: TEVA  ) and Mylan (Nasdaq: MYL  ) may come in and join the fun.

Interestingly, though, Pfizer isn't backing away from the challenge. In an attempt to refocus its attention on drugs, Pfizer plans to sell or spin off the company's nutrition and animal-health businesses. Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT  ) is reportedly interested in the nutrition segment, but as Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) and Sanofi discovered earlier this year, the animal-health segment may be harder to divest.

Moreover, it's not as if Lipitor is the only drug Pfizer sells. The company successfully beat off Teva in a challenge to sell generic Viagra; now, generics won't be available until October 2019.

Still, much of Pfizer's near-term success will depend on whether it can sustain its revenue without a proprietary right to Lipitor. With expectations fairly low, just about any positive result could be a big win for shareholders -- and push the stock that much closer to perfection.

Keep searching
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.

Click here to add Pfizer to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

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. The Motley Fool owns shares of Teva Pharmaceutical and Abbott Labs. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Pfizer, Teva Pharmaceutical, and Abbott Labs. 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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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2011, at 11:52 AM, prginww wrote:

    the perfect stock..........for the perfect FOOL!

    if you think you'll ever see the days of 50 bucks a share again, perhaps you'd be interested in investing with mr madoff?

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 12:58 PM, last3rdrich wrote:

    Pfizer is the world's largest pharma company. The 6 plus out of 10 is not the worst stock to own. I am still wanting to buy, but at mid-teens.

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