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3 Stocks Near 52-Week Highs Worth Selling

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The United States may be on the brink of war with Syria and, in the process, also irritating some of our trade allies, yet two-in-five stocks in the Motley Fool CAPS database are within 10% or less of a new 52-week high. For skeptics like me, that's an opportunity to see whether companies have earned their current valuations.

Keep in mind that some companies deserve their current valuations. Take oil equipment and services provider Halliburton (NYSE: HAL  ) , which reported a record quarter of revenue in July of $7.3 billion, and looks poised for ongoing contract wins as President Obama pushes toward American energy independence. Furthermore, Halliburton completed the repurchase of $1 billion worth of its own shares in the second quarter and boosted its ongoing share repurchase program by $4.3 billion, to $5 billion, of which $3.3 billion was purchased in a modified Dutch auction in August. With increasing shareholder value on Halliburton's mind, this isn't a company I would dare consider betting against. 

Still, other companies might deserve a kick in the pants. Here's a look at three companies that could be worth selling.

Not what I envisioned
Envision Healthcare
(NYSE: EVHC  ) , previously known as CDRT Holding, went public less than a month ago, but has already made a name for itself, forging higher just weeks before the state-run exchanges under Obamacare are set to open for business.

Envision, which you may know better by its 12,000 paramedics and trained medical technicians, who are seen in AMR ambulances, certainly picked an optimal time to IPO given the radical reform that's set to unfold in the health-care space. But, are shareholders paying a hefty price to get a piece of Envision? I think so.

On a year-over-year growth basis, it's not hard to understand why investors are bidding up Envision. Year-over-year EBITDA nearly doubled, with EPS more than doubling, thanks to tighter cost controls. But, there are also some very disturbing fundamental aspects of Envision from a debt and valuation perspective that have me concerned.

For one, with a valuation of $4.7 billion, Envision is valued at close to 12 times its 2012 EBITDA -- a value that seems a bit steep given that ambulance operator and competitor Rural/Metro filed for bankruptcy last month. I know what you're thinking: "Isn't one less competitor good news?" The answer is yes... and no. It does reduce competition a bit, but also proves that upfront costs of the business are incredibly high.

The other concerning aspects are Envision's uncompensated revenue expense, and its net debt. Last year, Envision brought in $5.8 billion in revenue, but wrote off $2.5 billion as bad/uncollectable debt... that's insanely high! In addition, purchasing ambulances and providing medical care isn't cheap, and has pushed Envision to carry $2.67 billion in net debt as of its last quarter. In September of last year, Moody's assigned the company a Caa1 credit rating, which, by its own definition, is a poor-credit quality and high-risk company. I wouldn't use Obamacare as an excuse to buy Envision, and would suggest avoiding it here.

Not all prototype companies are the same
I don't know about you, but I have the feeling that valuations in the 3-D printing sector are about three years ahead of themselves. The most concerning part I find with valuations in the sector is that companies that have very little (if anything!) to do with 3-D printing are rallying.

Take Proto Labs (NYSE: PRLB  ) as a good example. Proto Labs manufactures computer numerical controlled machined products and injection-molded prototypes. While a useful technology, as is evidenced by Proto Labs' projected growth rate of 22%, this is the type of company that's set to be largely displaced by 3-D technology, not necessarily benefit from it. Even with Proto Labs getting its foot in the door in 3-D printing, it's still light years behind its prototyping competitors.

Understanding that, I have to wonder what investors see in a company that's currently being valued at 43 times forward earnings, 13 times sales, 10 times book, and a staggering 55 times cash flow! Were I to run a screen of the markets' most overvalued stocks using my TMFULOI metric, Proto Labs would be one of just a handful of companies to pop up on the list.

Considering that manufacturing growth is nowhere near strong enough to command this type of valuation out of Proto Labs, and that its technology is slowly being replaced by 3-D manufacturers, I see no reason to pay such a hefty price for this company.

Driving into unchartered territory
As I've repeatedly stated before, not every company featured in this weekly series is a bad company. Sometimes, the emotions of investors just get the better of them, and the valuation of a company doesn't reflect the underlying growth. This is the plight of fleet management specialist Fleetmatics Group (NYSE: FLTX  ) .

In Fleetmatics second-quarter results, the company delivered a 39% increase in revenue, to $42.5 million, with non-GAAP EPS rising by a whopping 360%. There's no doubt in my mind that Fleetmatics' software-as-a-service platform, which allows small-to-medium sized businesses to locate their vehicles and analyze fuel consumption, is a tool that will only grow in popularity over time. What isn't understandable is the current valuation placed on Fleetmatics' stock.

At a whopping 48 times forward earnings, 13 times book value, and 12 times sales, Fleetmatics is pushing all boundaries of value investing. If the company was able to keep up its growth rate well into 2015, I might be able to support this valuation, but with top-line growth expected to drop off to just 24% next year, from 39% in the past quarter, I can't suggest Fleetmatics as a good deal at a PEG of two.

Foolish roundup
Although valuation is always the prime reason a company makes its way into this series, the three stocks mentioned this week are here almost solely based on what appears to be overzealous investors. The business model for all three looks profitable over the long run; however, the near-term results for all three had better be flawless if they have any hope of maintaining their current valuations.

I'm so confident in my three calls, that I plan to make a CAPScall of underperform on each one. The question is: Would you do the same?

With the European debt crisis and slowing growth in China, many investors are worried about heady growth going forward; but fear not, because The Future is Made in America. Domestic manufacturing is poised to once again become the investment driver of the world, and all because of one disruptive technology. You can uncover the three companies that will become the American Steel of tomorrow in The Motley Fool's new free report. Just click here to read more.

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Related Tickers

8/30/2016 4:02 PM
FLTX $59.88 Down -0.01 -0.02%
Fleetmatics Group CAPS Rating: ***
PRLB $59.46 Down -0.18 -0.30%
Proto Labs CAPS Rating: *****
HAL $44.07 Down -0.67 -1.50%
Halliburton CAPS Rating: ****