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Invest Like the Mafia

By Matt Koppenheffer - Updated Apr 6, 2017 at 2:02AM

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Is it possible the Mafia can teach us what kind of businesses to look for?

It seems that if we're not besieged by bad news of a possible bankruptcy for U.S. auto giant General Motors (NYSE:GM), then we're suffering through the continued struggles of banks like Citigroup (NYSE:C). Let's face it, this is a brutal market for investors.

And when we look at most of the companies that are having the biggest problems, one common trait leaps out at us: Debt.

Companies loaded down with borrowed money simply don't have a lot of maneuverability during recessions, because they have to pay the piper come hell or high water. And if they don't, well, in most cases the piper takes the company, chops it up, and sells off the pieces.

But maybe we can learn a little something from Italy's Mafia. Organized crime is not only lucrative, but also highly cash-based. That means that while many companies around the world are struggling under the weight of bank loans, Mafia-owned companies are flush with cash. As Bloomberg recently put it, they're "breezing through economic hard times."

Want to get in on some of that Mafioso debt-free action without actually having to become part of La Cosa Nostra? Take a gander at this set of companies. Each (entirely unaffiliated-with-organized-crime) company below has produced a return on equity of more than 10%, suggesting that it's a quality business, and each has no debt to speak of. All of them have also been given high ratings by The Motley Fool's CAPS community.

Company

Return on Equity

CAPS Rating (max 5)

Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG)

17.4%

****

Ctrip.com (NASDAQ:CTRP)

25.3%

****

Titanium Metals (NYSE:TIE)

12.7%

*****

Texas Instruments (NYSE:TXN)

13.4%

****

Forest Laboratories (NYSE:FRX)

22.4%

*****

Source: CAPS and Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's, as of May 27.

Now, a lack of debt doesn't guarantee that business will be all lollipops and unicorns for these companies, but it does mean that none of them have creditors standing by ready to snuff them out like Michael Corleone coming down on Virgil Sollozzo. If you'd like to learn more about any of the companies above, head over to CAPS and find out why CAPS members like their stocks so much.

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Stocks Mentioned

Citigroup Inc. Stock Quote
Citigroup Inc.
C
$47.86 (3.26%) $1.51
Texas Instruments Incorporated Stock Quote
Texas Instruments Incorporated
TXN
$155.95 (3.18%) $4.81
General Motors Company Stock Quote
General Motors Company
GM
$34.82 (5.55%) $1.83
Intuitive Surgical, Inc. Stock Quote
Intuitive Surgical, Inc.
ISRG
$209.67 (2.53%) $5.17
Trip.com Group Limited Stock Quote
Trip.com Group Limited
TCOM
$23.65 (4.05%) $0.92
Titanium Metals Corporation Stock Quote
Titanium Metals Corporation
TIE.DL

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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