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The Applix of My Eye

If it pays to be greedy when others are fearful, then it's time to load up on business analytics software provider Applix (Nasdaq: APLX  ) . The stock was down more than 10% on Friday.

What gives? My guess is that traders were skimming the earnings release and finding lower reported net income. Per-share earnings fell 14.3%, to $0.12, in the second quarter. But revenue was up almost 31%. And free cash flow appears to be blossoming. (Get all the numbers here.)

As a cash flow junkie, this last point particularly pleases me. Cash-poor businesses rarely grow, while cash-rich businesses usually do. Applix, with $1.81 per share in net cash on its books, is plenty rich already.

But more riches could be on the way. Applix collected $5.4 million in free cash flow in the first quarter and, according to chief financial officer Milt Alpern, roughly $5 million more in the second quarter.

Or, in simpler terms: In six months, Applix has produced 48% more cash than it did in all of 2006.

Before you get too excited, realize that Applix tends to collect the majority of its cash in the first half of the year. $20 million in full-year free cash flow probably isn't in the cards.

But $15 million seems possible. Why? Applix produced 30% of last year's $7 million in free cash flow between July and December. Applying the same ratio this year would put full-year FCF at $14.9 million, which would make for a 113% year-over-year improvement.

Now, I should point out that not all growth stocks make for good businesses. What assurances do we really have that Applix is a strong business? None, unfortunately.

Nevertheless, we can take solace in license revenue. Sales of new software were up 15% during the quarter. For the full year, executives are projecting 28% growth in license revenue. Customers don't bet on bad software, so this is the metric to watch.

Finally, we can't back up the truck without first knowing what we'll pay to carry this cargo. At today's prices -- $13.41 a share as of the close -- Applix trades for ... hold on (key-punching sounds) ... 17.1 times its trailing free cash flow. And this for a business that's positioned to double FCF this year. Silly.

Yep, my 2-year-old son says it best: Back up the truck, dad-dee. Beep! Beep! Beep!

Analyze this, Fool:

How great is growth? Eleven of the dozens of stocks in the market-beating Motley Fool Rule Breakers portfolio, which includes Applix, have more than doubled. Discover their identities with a 30-day free trial to the service.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. He plans to buy shares of Applix when The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is done giving him the stiff-arm. Find Tim's portfolio here and his latest blog commentary here.

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