Profit by Seeing Green

First off, Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Yep, that's right, I count myself among the millions of us in the U.S. who boast of some form of Irish background. My Irish blood comes from ancestors on my dad's side of the family. And I take pride in my green past. Of course it doesn't hurt that green is my favorite color, especially when it comes in the form of cold, hard moolah.

Interestingly, a nose for the green can benefit you when it comes to stocks. Indeed, companies that trade for close to what they have per-share in the bank can make for promising investments, as fellow Fool Rich Smith points out here. The strategy was so successful during the dot-com bust that we even opened a discussion board aimed at finding these cash-rich "Green Gene" companies.

Seeing that we're bound to be surrounded by green all day, I thought it might be worthwhile to run Rich's screen and see what promising stocks pop up. I took three from a list of 25. Have a look:

Company Share price Cash per share EV-to-EBITDA
Boston Communications $6.96 $4.16 0.82
RTW Inc $10.47 $7.46 1.97
GSI Lumonics $8.97 $1.79 5.62
Data provided by Yahoo! Finance

A quick caveat to those wondering -- in cash-per-share calculations, cash actually includes cash plus short-term investments.

Boston Communications Group (Nasdaq: BCGI  ) provides roaming and other services to wireless carriers, including Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) and Cingular. RTW (Nasdaq: RTWI  ) specializes in workers' compensation insurance, while GSI Lumonics (Nasdaq: GSLI  ) makes lasers for manufacturing. Each counts cash as a substantial portion of its per-share valuation, meaning ongoing operations could be selling at a discount. One back-of-the-napkin way to get a read on this is to compare the current price-to-earnings ratio to net cash per share. On that score, RTW does very well, with its P/E just 0.77 times net cash. BCG scores second at 1.77, while GSI Lumonics pulls up lame at 5.47. RTW and BCG may be trading at or below intrinsic value.

Of the two, I like BCG. That's because of the recent spate of insider buying. After all, insiders typically have a pretty good grasp of what constitutes a stock's intrinsic value -- they usually don't buy without getting an attractive valuation.

Now, with all that said, it's important to remember that a sizable cash cushion doesn't automatically indicate a good stock. That can be determined only by solid, Foolish, fundamental research. Still, it's worth the work. For example, had you foundApple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) last year trading for two times its net cash, you'd be sitting on close to a four-bagger right now. You could call that the luck of the Irish. But I'd prefer to say it's the magic of the green.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers hopes you, too, get to enjoy a pint of Guinness and fine Irish stew tonight. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what's in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile, which is here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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