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 Motricity (Nasdaq: MOTR ) 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 Motricity.
What We Want to See
Pass or Fail?
|Growth||5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15%||40.9%||Pass|
|1-Year Revenue Growth > 12%||(8.8%)||Fail|
|Margins||Gross Margin > 35%||62.3%||Pass|
|Net Margin > 15%||(160.6%)||Fail|
|Balance Sheet||Debt to Equity < 50%||43.5%||Pass|
|Current Ratio > 1.3||1.39||Pass|
|Opportunities||Return on Equity > 15%||(161.1%)||Fail|
|Valuation||Normalized P/E < 20||NM||NM|
|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 due to negative earnings. Total score = number of passes.
Since we looked at Motricity last year, the company has lost a point. But the huge expansion of losses that the company has suffered is a much greater cause for alarm, and the stock's price has plunged precipitously in response.
When Motricity first came public, the company appeared to be in great shape. With AT&T (NYSE: T ) , Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) , and Sprint (NYSE: S ) all working with the company to organize content and facilitate data delivery on mobile devices, Motricity seemed to be in the right place at the perfect time.
But where Motricity appears to have gone wrong is in its focus on ordinary cellphones. The smartphone explosion in the U.S. has made Motricity's provision of smartphone-like access to data on lower-end phones unnecessary for many customers. The situation was so problematic that the company dismissed its CEO and other executives last summer, and the stock has never recovered.
Looking forward, Motricity's best hope is that overseas markets with less smartphone penetration could help boost growth. But in the long run, it's hard to see how Motricity can hold back the inevitable flood of smartphones, rendering its business model potentially obsolete.
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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