Dow Jones' (NYSE: DJ ) The Wall Street Journal is probably the best newspaper around when it comes to solid business reporting. But as a resource for finding new stock ideas, it leaves a lot to be desired.
Take last Wednesday's issue, which contained a pretty optimistic article on page C1, above the fold, about the little company that invented the NiMH rechargeable battery, Energy Conversion Devices (Nasdaq: ENER ) . I read the article twice; I looked at the company's financials once. I remain unimpressed. Not only does ECD lack any profits, as the Journal article readily admitted -- it also lacks free cash flow. And some of the quotes from ECD management don't lend a whole lot of encouragement that things will ever get much better. For instance, ECD aims to attain "sustained profitability" in 2006, but this year, it restructured and focused on making a profit. Well, obviously, if it focused on making a profit this year, but doesn't expect to see one until two years hence, then it didn't succeed very well this year, did it?
So yeah, in short, I'm not buying all the praise the Journal heaped on ECD. But then again, I don't read the Journal for stock recommendations. I read it for the news and for the stock leads you can get from reading between the lines of the news. For example, in making its less-than-convincing case for why ECD "seems poised to cash in on battery technology" for hybrid cars, the Journal gave readers the names of two companies that are already making a profit from hybrids. No, I'm not talking about Toyota (NYSE: TM ) , Honda (NYSE: HMC ) , or Ford (NYSE: F ) -- all of which are selling hybrids -- I'm talking about the people who sell them the batteries used in their hybrids. Specifically, two Japanese manufacturers who license NiMH technology from ECD and use it to make the hybrid car batteries: Sanyo (Nasdaq: SANYY ) and MatsushitaElectric (NYSE: MC ) .
Of the two, Matsushita looks the most intriguing for two reasons. First, Dodge & Cox (FUND: DODGX ) , a mutual fund that has garnered praise more than once on these Foolish pages, owns more than 1% of Matsushita's stock. And the reason Dodge & Cox owns Matsushita? That's also my second reason for liking the company. Hard core value investors, Dodge & Cox probably noticed that in addition to having its hand in the growing spheres of hybrids and LCD TVs, Matsushita sports a market cap of less than its book value. That's the kind of statistic that can give any value hunter a charge.
Read all about the companies who buy Sanyo's and Matsushita's batteries in:
Fool contributorRich Smithowns no shares of any company mentioned in this article.