Has Quality Systems 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 Quality Systems (NASDAQ: QSII  ) 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 Quality Systems.

Factor

What We Want to See

Actual

Pass or Fail?

Growth

5-year annual revenue growth > 15%

21.7%

Pass

 

1-year revenue growth > 12%

14.9%

Pass

Margins

Gross margin > 35%

61.6%

Pass

 

Net margin > 15%

14.8%

Fail

Balance sheet

Debt to equity < 50%

0%

Pass

 

Current ratio > 1.3

2.38

Pass

Opportunities

Return on equity > 15%

23.2%

Pass

Valuation

Normalized P/E < 20

16.56

Pass

Dividends

Current yield > 2%

3.9%

Pass

 

5-year dividend growth > 10%

22.9%

Pass

       
 

Total score

 

9 out of 10

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

Since we looked at Quality Systems last year, the company gained a point, with only a 0.2 percentage point shortfall in net margin separating it from perfection this year. But the stock has been anything but perfect, with a more than 50% drop in the past year.

Quality Systems is seeking to become a bigger player in the electronic health-records industry. With calls under health-care reform laws to bolster portability of medical records, the company seemed to be in exactly the right place at the right time.

But Quality Systems has had a truly terrible 2012. Sales growth has decelerated, and the company has consistently missed quarterly earnings estimates throughout the year. It also suspended future guidance, worrying investors that the worst could be yet to come. Given that prospective buyers are having to wait for regulations covering health-record requirements, there's likely pent-up demand, but it's uncertain when it will get released.

Quality Systems hasn't been the only player in the space to suffer. Allscripts Healthcare Solutions (NASDAQ: MDRX  ) has seen similar stock-price losses throughout the year, and it was only when the company hired an investment-bank advisor to explore strategic alternatives such as putting itself up for sale that the stock bounced back. But competition from Cerner (NASDAQ: CERN  ) , which has benefited from the trend toward payment bundling for medical expense reimbursement, looms over Quality, as does the presence of General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) and its much larger health-care segment.

For Quality Systems to improve, it needs to reinvigorate growth. But with the reduction in price, the stock is finally looking like a reasonable value proposition, and that could be the last obstacle between it and perfection for investors looking to get in now.

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.

Many investors don't realize that GE is a big player in the health-care industry. To help you keep the conglomerate's many divisions straight, our top analysts recently came out with their premium research report on GE. Find out whether General Electric is a smart buy for your portfolio by reading the report, which includes in-depth analysis of the company's prospects and potential pitfalls. To get started, click here now.

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


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