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 Mesabi Trust (NYSE: MSB ) 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 Mesabi Trust.
What We Want to See
Pass or Fail?
|Growth||5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15%||13.9%||Fail|
|1-Year Revenue Growth > 12%||9.3%||Fail|
|Margins||Gross Margin > 35%||100%||Pass|
|Net Margin > 15%||97.0%||Pass|
|Balance Sheet||Debt to Equity < 50%||0%||Pass|
|Current Ratio > 1.3||4.29||Pass|
|Opportunities||Return on Equity > 15%||966.2%||Pass|
|Valuation||Normalized P/E < 20||15.44||Pass|
|Dividends||Current Yield > 2%||10.3%*||Pass|
|5-Year Dividend Growth > 10%||13.6%||Pass|
|Total Score||8 out of 10|
Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes. * Based on trailing-12-month dividend payments.
Since we looked at Mesabi Trust last year, the company has added a point. Dividend growth climbed above the 10% mark, but the stock has fallen 20% as some investors don't seem to understand exactly how Mesabi works.
As a royalty trust, Mesabi owns iron ore producing properties that a subsidiary of Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE: CLF ) is responsible for mining and selling. Mesabi then gets a cut, which goes out to shareholders every quarter as dividend distributions.
As happens every year, Mesabi's quarterly payout plunged during the winter, as shipping came to a standstill. But like clockwork, the distribution has always gone back up in the subsequent quarter, and often, shares rise in response.
But another confusing thing may have led to declines for Mesabi. Great Northern Iron Ore (NYSE: GNI ) , which is also set up as a trust, saw its shares plunge by more than half since March as investors finally started to realize that its 2015 termination date would leave investors with nothing in just three years. But Mesabi Trust isn't set up with a fixed termination date, meaning that any concerns of a similar end for Mesabi are unwarranted.
More important are challenges presented by a slowdown in economic activity. Just as Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO ) and Vale (NYSE: VALE ) have gotten hit by the potential for a Chinese slowdown in iron ore demand, so too could the prices Mesabi receives for its royalties go down. For now, though, Mesabi continues to offer good value to investors, and a rebound in demand could give it the growth it would need to achieve 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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