When Jeremy Grantham speaks, I listen. He's not afraid to have a contrarian mind-set lead him in a different direction from the crowd. Recently, Grantham believed some high-quality companies traded at attractive prices. Grantham wasn't sure why the high-quality names were on sale, but he thought they offered the best returns for the next seven years. He has a pretty good long-term track record of sniffing out where the best returns are, so let's see what companies Grantham is rooting out.

What do "high-quality" and "on sale" mean? Certainly, they will represent different things to different people. For our purposes, let's say high-quality companies have a strong balance sheet and generate excellent returns on invested capital. We'll use free cash flow yield (free cash flow / market cap) compared to the 10-year Treasury yield as a proxy for value.

So a Grantham-like opportunity would have:

  1. Net cash position > 0
    More cash than debt can indicate a strong balance sheet.
  2. ROIC > 15%
    Earning a 15% return should be more than a company's cost of capital.
  3. FCF / Price > 4%
    10-year treasuries are yielding about 3%. We want more return than that.

With the definitions out of the way, let's see if Copart (Nasdaq: CPRT) can pass our sniff test.

As you can see from the table below, Copart has a positive net cash position on its balance sheet. What's more, the company currently earns a return on invested capital that is higher than its cost of capital. Fools love companies that take shareholder capital and create value with it.

Company

Net Cash (in millions)

ROIC

FCF/P

Copart Inc.

264.3

16.7%

5%

Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers (NYSE: RBA)

51.1

15.2%

-2.4%

KAR Auction Services Inc. (NYSE: KAR)

-2203.0

3.8%

22.6%

How does it stack up to the competition? Ritchie Brothers had positive net cash and a high enough ROIC. However, free cash flow appears to be negative right now. KAR Auction Services, on the other hand, carries more debt than cash and doesn't earn high enough returns.

Foolish conclusion
Would Jeremy Grantham buy Copart? That's really hard to say. After all, he's his own investor. But with quality numbers like the ones above, I have to believe Grantham would certainly give Copart a good, hard look. And you and I should, too.

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Million Dollar Portfolio associate advisor David Meier does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned Copart is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Copart is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Ritchie Auctioneers is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.