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 proven 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 pair them with the opinions of the more than 160,000 members of the Motley Fool CAPS investor-intelligence community, to see which ones might have the best chance of outperforming the market.


Levered FCF 5-Year

CAPS Rating 
(out of 5)

American Oriental Bioengineering (NYSE: AOB)



Celgene (Nasdaq: CELG)



Noble (NYSE: NE)



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 having looked 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, so use this list as a jumping-off point to dig deeper into the piles of cash.

A sizzling opportunity?
Though its stock has been beaten down and both sales and profits fell below analyst expectations in the fourth quarter, American Oriental Bioengeering retains an ironclad balance sheet that should help it make it over this rough patch.

Similar to Tongjitang Chinese Medicines (NYSE: TCM) and Tianyin Pharmaceutical (NYSE: TPI), AOB produces traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) with modern processes and sells them via prescription as well as over the counter. Though American Oriental Bioengineering has been seeking to establish itself as the premier brand for TCM, its pharmaceutical-grade remedies are what have been helping to propel sales forward.

Pharmaceutical product sales, accounting for 80% of total revenues, rose 5% compared to a 28% drop in OTC products. Yet CAPS member MikeBobulinski sees a huge market opportunity for AOB considering the country's demographics.

Again...population is huge...medical needs will be huge. This company is ideally situated and handles traditional Chinese meds. Despite any accounting problems that have been found, these guys should improve over time. Long speculative play.

The head of the class
Here at home, Celgene looks to the future instead of tradition to develop exciting new therapies to combat cancer and other illnesses. Perhaps best known for its blood cancer drugs, which look to generate $6 billion in revenues by 2015, Celgene brought forth a passel of new, experimental drugs two weeks ago that it hopes will light the fire of further growth.

One of its better hopes is for a psoriasis treatment called apremilast. Although it would like to see $2 billion to $3 billion in annual sales eventually, it will be going up against some industry heavyweights, including Pfizer and Amgen's (Nasdaq: AMGN) Enbrel, and Merck and Johnson & Johnson's Remicade.

Eye-popping results
Even more CAPS members like the potential that offshore contract drilling services specialist Noble brings to the table. Almost 99% of more than 2,100 CAPS members have rated it to outperform the broader market averages, likely feeling as All-Star Seansonfire does that the high utilizations rates of its rigs ready it for future growth.

Noble Corp (NE) has been on my radar for a number of months as I like the Oil and Gas Equipment and Exploration sector. With the long term trend in oil to be growth in emerging markets (BRIC nations), I fell that this sector will perform well over the next ten years. [Noble] has a diverse fleet of Jackups, Submersibles, and Semisubmersibles with a strong growth in the utilization of these ships going forward that will contribute to there success.

It was ultimately Noble's financial sturdiness and conservative management that allowed it to tread where others feared to go during the depths of the financial crisis. Anadarko Petroleum and Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN) were noticeably absent. Look for a noble result from Noble's future.

Follow the money
While these stocks have left a trail of dollars, it pays to start your own research on 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. Why not head over to the completely free CAPS service and let us hear what you've got to say about these or any other stocks that you think will continue to be rolling in the dough.

Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Johnson & Johnson is a Motley Fool Income Investor choice. Motley Fool Options has recommended a buy calls position on Johnson & Johnson. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services today, free for 30 days.

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.