Had Jerry Maguire been an investor instead of a fictional sports agent, he might have become famous for yelling, "Show me the cash flow!"

Earnings come and go, and the green-eyeshade types can legally manipulate them to mask a company's true operations. Yet its ability to generate cash -- what comes in the register and goes out the door -- remains the preeminent indicator of company's worth. In short, cash is king.

Below, we'll look at companies that have proved themselves prodigious generators of free cash flow (FCF) -- the amount of money a company has left over that it could potentially pay to its investors. We'll find companies that have generated compounded free cash flow growth rates exceeding 25% annually over the past five years. Then we'll pair them with the opinions of the more than 145,000 members of the Motley Fool CAPS investor intelligence community, to see which stocks might have the best chance of outperforming the market.

Company

Levered FCF 5-Year CAGR, %

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO)

32.6%

***

Assured Guaranty

111.5%

*

Genzyme (NASDAQ:GENZ)

58.1%

****

Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX)

52.1%

***

TriQuint Semiconductor (NASDAQ:TQNT)

103.9%

*****

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's; Motley Fool CAPS.
CAGR = compounded annual growth rate.

Generating copious amounts of cash doesn't make a company an automatic buy. But a look at Enron's cash flows, instead of its earnings, would have saved many investors a lot of grief. Warren Buffett understands that the value of a company today is calculated by its discounted future cash flows. With that in mind, let's use this list as a jumping-off point to dig deeper into these companies' piles of cash.

Ka-ching!
Economic improvements continue to boost demand for TriQuint Semiconductor's communications chips. The company's third quarter had slightly disappointed the market, yielding weak guidance for the immediate future. Although revenue had increased 28% for the six months ending Sept. 26, comparisons to the six months before that looked far less rosy. Analysts were underwhelmed by predictions that demand from handset customers would be weaker than expected. Shares suffered a rapid collapse and still haven't recovered.

Following the holiday season, though, the fourth quarter is shaping up much better than anticipated. TriQuint raised revenue expectations, announcing that profits will be about 20% higher than previously forecast. That outcome seems to match investors' previous guesswork.

Highly rated CAPS All-Star socalguyCUI believes the growth of smartphones will be a key to TriQuint's success: "They will be seeing huge profits next year from being one of the top players in the chip field for Smart Phones."

The push towards the mobile Internet has also generated strong free cash flows for Skyworks Solutions (NASDAQ:SWKS). But TriQuint's purchase of a manufacturer of chips that help deliver high-quality multimedia content for cable TV and fiber-to-the-home circuits suggests that the company considers networks a hotter area for future growth. However, RF Micro Devices (NASDAQ:RFMD) and Anadigics (NASDAQ:ANAD) will also be vying for market share in this space.

Some 97.4% of the CAPS members rating TriQuint believe it will outperform the market. You can network with other investors about the potential cash in the company's chips on the TriQuint Semiconductor CAPS page.

Follow the money
It pays to start your own research on these and other cash cows via Motley Fool CAPS. Read a company's financial reports, scrutinize key data and charts, and examine the comments your fellow investors have made, all from a stock's CAPS page. Head over to the completely free CAPS service, and share your opinions on these or any other stocks that you think will continue to roll in the dough.

Netflix is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the other stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.