Has Emerson Electric 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 Emerson Electric (NYSE: EMR  ) 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 Emerson Electric.

Factor

What We Want to See

Actual

Pass or Fail?

Growth

5-year annual revenue growth > 15%

1.7%

Fail

 

1-year revenue growth > 12%

2.8%

Fail

Margins

Gross margin > 35%

40.2%

Pass

 

Net margin > 15%

8.3%

Fail

Balance sheet

Debt to equity < 50%

51.4%

Fail

 

Current ratio > 1.3

1.40

Pass

Opportunities

Return on equity > 15%

20.1%

Pass

Valuation

Normalized P/E < 20

16.98

Pass

Dividends

Current yield > 2%

2.9%

Pass

 

5-year dividend growth > 10%

8.2%

Fail

       
 

Total score

 

5 out of 10

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

Since we looked at Emerson Electric last year, the company has held its five-point score for the third year in a row. The stock has put in a similarly modest performance, rising about 10% over the past year.

Emerson has had to deal with changing industry dynamics recently, as consolidation activity rose dramatically in 2012. Eaton's (NYSE: ETN  ) purchase of Cooper Industries gave the company a lot more presence in Emerson's key power segment. An even bigger threat may come from General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) , which has been working hard to get back to its electrical roots by strengthening its energy infrastructure business. If GE follows through on plans to make a major acquisition in the space, it could pose an even bigger concern for Emerson.

Still, Emerson isn't standing still, having expanded in several directions recently. Earlier this month, the company's network power segment announced a collaboration with IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) to integrate their respective data-center resource management solutions. Working together, the companies believe a combined product can better meet the needs of both their client lists. Emerson also won a contract to provide control technology for a solar-power project in Nevada.

For Emerson to improve, it needs for the economy in Europe to improve, as the sluggish region has hurt Emerson's results recently. With pent-up demand across the globe as businesses wait for the all-clear sign before moving forward with major capital expenditures, Emerson could see revenue grow dramatically if macroeconomic conditions cooperate, and that could send the stock a lot closer to perfection in the years ahead.

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.

Emerson may face competition from General Electric, so it's important to understand how GE plans to keep expanding in its core industrial business. Get all the latest news from our industrials analyst by reading his latest premium research on General Electric. Inside his report, you'll find reasons to buy or sell GE, and you'll receive continuing updates as major events unfold during the year. To get started, click here now.

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


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