Everyone would love to find the perfect stock. But will you ever really find a stock that gives you everything you could possibly want?

One thing's for sure: If you don't look, you'll never find truly great investments. So let's first take a look at what you'd want to see from a perfect stock, and then decide whether SeaDrill (NYSE: SDRL) fits the bill.

The quest for perfection
When you're looking for great stocks, you have to do your due diligence. It's not enough to rely on a single measure, because a stock that looks great based on one factor may turn out to be horrible in other ways. The best stocks, however, excel in many different areas, which all come together to make up a very attractive picture.

Some of the most basic yet important things to look for in a stock are:

  • Growth. Expanding businesses show healthy revenue growth. While past growth is no guarantee that revenue will keep rising, it's certainly a better sign than a stagnant top line.
  • Margins. Higher sales don't mean anything if a company can't turn them into profits. Strong margins ensure a company is able to turn revenue into profit.
  • Balance sheet. Debt-laden companies have banks and bondholders competing with shareholders for management's attention. Companies with strong balance sheets don't have to worry about the distraction of debt.
  • Money-making opportunities. Companies need to be able to turn their resources into profitable business opportunities. Return on equity helps measure how well a company is finding those opportunities.
  • Valuation. You can't afford to pay too much for even the best companies. Earnings multiples are simple, but using normalized figures gives you a sense of how valuation fits into a longer-term context.
  • Dividends. Investors are demanding tangible proof of profits, and there's nothing more tangible than getting a check every three months. Companies with solid dividends and strong commitments to increasing payouts treat shareholders well.

With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at SeaDrill:

Factor What We Want to See Actual Pass or Fail?
Growth 5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15% 156.2% pass
  1-Year Revenue Growth > 12% 25.3% pass
Margins Gross Margin > 35% 55.4% pass
  Net Margin > 15% 33.6% pass
Balance Sheet Debt to Equity < 50% 210.2% fail
  Current Ratio > 1.3 0.82 fail
Opportunities Return on Equity > 15% 29.2% pass
Valuation Normalized P/E < 20 19.53 pass
Dividends Current Yield > 2% 7.7% pass
  5-Year Dividend Growth > 10% * pass
  Total Score   8 out of 10

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard and Poor's. Total score = number of passes.
* SeaDrill initiated a dividend within the past five years.

SeaDrill scores an impressive 8 points. Despite being in an industry that's been plagued by problems over the past year, the Norwegian company is taking steps to put itself head and shoulders above its peers.

As you'd expect from its name, SeaDrill specializes in drilling rigs and jackups for energy production. The entire industry got a black eye following the destruction of Transocean's (NYSE: RIG) Deepwater Horizon rig and the ensuing oil spill, and many of the industry's rigs went idle in the aftermath.

But SeaDrill is the new kid on the block, having started in 2005. As a result, it has state-of-the-art drilling rigs and jackups that are in high demand, and SeaDrill's utilization rates are running in the 95% to 97% range.

Now, SeaDrill is looking to expand its presence. After buying a competitor early last year, some see SeaDrill potentially going after bigger takeover targets. The company already has a stake in Pride International (NYSE: PDE), and Noble Energy (NYSE: NE) has been suggested as another potential target.

For now, though, SeaDrill combines the strong growth of an upstart company with the unusual practice of having started to pay healthy dividends early in its existence. So far, that's been a winning combination that has brought the company to the brink of being a perfect stock.

Keep searching
No stock is a sure thing, but some stocks are a lot closer to perfect than others. By looking for the perfect stock, you'll go a long way toward improving your investing prowess and learning how to separate out the best investments from the rest.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.