This article is part of our Rising Star Portfolios series.
What do snowmobiles, dredging equipment, and bananas have in common? Not much -- but they're all on my radar as investment ideas for my Rising Stars portfolio.
Around this time each year, my buddies and I get together to attempt to answer an eternally important question: Where are we going skiing this season? This year, one of my friends proposed that we widen our perspective on winter sports. Why not snowshoeing? Why not ice climbing? Why not snowmobiling?
That last one struck a chord with our group. After all, is it that surprising that a bunch of testosterone-fueled guys are excited by the prospect of racing uncontrolled through powder-white snowfields?
But it's not just the idea of whipping a corner and spraying snow into my comrades' faces that has me all riled up. I'm also excited about the prospects of Arctic Cat
Dredging equipment …
If you're impressed by your dog's ability to burrow under the fence into your neighbor's daffodil patch, you'll be in awe of the folks at Great Lakes Dredge and Dock
The trade winds seem to be picking up favorably for them, too. Government spending on maintaining port channels has not met the need in recent years, meaning there's a growing backlog of work to be done -- and these projects are anything but optional. Furthermore, international ports are on average five to 10 feet deeper than U.S. ports, meaning some international vessels have been kept out of our docks. This wasn't a huge deal, since the largest vessels primarily serviced West Coast ports, but with the pending Panama Canal expansion slated for completion in 2014, these deeper draft vessels will have easier access to the Gulf and East Coasts, putting the pressure on the U.S. to deepen the ports there.
As the largest dredge operator in the country, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock stands to benefit from all that new business -- not to mention the constant work of beach nourishment and coastal storm damage repair. The one damper is Great Lakes' international operations. It's great that the company has found work abroad, but not so great that almost all of that work has come from one customer: the government of Bahrain.
… and bananas?
Comedian Mitch Hedberg once joked that bananas and traffic lights had nothing in common. As he noted, on a traffic light, green means go, yellow means slow down, and red means stop. On a banana, it's the opposite: Green means slow down, yellow means go, and red means "where did you get that banana?"
Well, you didn't get it from Chiquita Brands International
To be sure, this is a niche business, and one with slim margins. That said, bananas have generated an average of more than $85 million in annual operating cash flow for Chiquita over the past six years, albeit in a very lumpy fashion. At first look, that kind of cash flow generation makes today's stock price look like a deal. I'm going to chow down on Chiquita to see whether that initial assessment holds up after some more rigorous research.
Putting it all together
This is the section where I concisely and wittily bring all these ideas together … but I'll be skipping the clever conclusion. You'll hear back from me when I have more to say about any of these companies. In the meantime, chime in with your questions, comments, and love of bananas on my discussion boards.
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Alex Pape does not own shares in any company mentioned here. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.