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 Fusion-io (NYSE: FIO ) 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 Fusion-io.
What We Want to See
Pass or Fail?
|Growth||5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15%||NM||NM|
|1-Year Revenue Growth > 12%||260.3%||Pass|
|Margins||Gross Margin > 35%||58.2%||Pass|
|Net Margin > 15%||4.8%||Fail|
|Balance Sheet||Debt to Equity < 50%||0%||Pass|
|Current Ratio > 1.3||9.63||Pass|
|Opportunities||Return on Equity > 15%||6.1%||Fail|
|Valuation||Normalized P/E < 20||276.03||Fail|
|Dividends||Current Yield > 2%||0%||Fail|
|5-Year Dividend Growth > 10%||0%||Fail|
|Total Score||4 out of 9|
Source: S&P Capital IQ. NM = not meaningful; Fusion-io has only had meaningful revenue for two years. Total score = number of passes.
With four points, Fusion-io has some work to do to reach perfection. However, the company is in a prime position to capitalize on a growing trend in technology.
Fusion-io makes solid-state memory devices. Solid-state memory has gained in popularity alongside their applications for tablets and other devices for which space is at a premium.
But Fusion-io's products are designed more for the high end, with a massive 10-terabyte drive that is several orders of magnitude faster to access than standard drives. For now, that gives Fusion-io a huge competitive edge over Western Digital and Seagate (Nasdaq: STX ) -- at least for the highest-end applications. The company counts Facebook as its biggest customer.
But competition will be fierce going forward. Western Digital and Seagate have gotten into solid-state drives and have seen some promise, and peer OCZ Technology (Nasdaq: OCZ ) saw a similarly impressive jump in revenue in its most recent quarter. EMC (NYSE: EMC ) has also recently announced its new VFCache technology, using flash chips to accelerate performance.
Late last week, Fusion-io shares jumped sharply as speculation arose that Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) might seek to buy out the company. Fool contributor Evan Niu questioned whether at its sky-high valuation expecting a buyout at an even richer premium was realistic. A buyout may be the best exit strategy for investors, but for now, the stock is already priced for perfection.
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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