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 if Genzyme (Nasdaq: GENZ) 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 areas, which 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 Genzyme.

Factor

What We Want to See

Actual

Pass or Fail?

Growth 5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15% 11% Fail
  1-Year Revenue Growth > 12% 3.8% Fail
Margins Gross Margin > 35% 67.6% Pass
  Net Margin > 15% (0.6%) Fail
Balance Sheet Debt to Equity < 50% 15.8% Pass
  Current Ratio > 1.3 2.19 Pass
Opportunities Return on Equity > 15% (0.3%) Fail
Valuation Normalized P/E < 20 128.40 Fail
Dividends Current Yield > 2% 0% Fail
  5-Year Dividend Growth > 10% 0% Fail
       
  Total Score   3 out of 10

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard and Poor's. Total score = number of passes.

Genzyme hasn't reached perfection with just three points. Nevertheless, the biotech giant has attracted a lot of attention lately, and there's a good chance that the company won't be an independent entity much longer.

The biggest news for Genzyme recently is the ongoing saga of sanofi-aventis (NYSE: SNY) trying to buy the company. Sanofi has made a tender offer to buy Genzyme shares, but Genzyme has said that Sanofi's offer is too low and is holding out for more. Shareholders agree, as the shares trade for more than the $69 tender offer price.

Meanwhile, Genzyme has been making moves on the assumption that a merger isn't going to happen. Last year, it sold its genetics testing unit to LabCorp (NYSE: LH) and its diagnostic products division to Sekisui Chemical. Those were non-core businesses that distracted from Genzyme's need to focus on turning around its drug business.

Part of that turnaround is coming from Genzyme recovering from manufacturing problems that puts the company's drug production at risk. In November, the company announced it had moved part of its production to its Irish plant and contracted another part of it out to Hospira (NYSE: HSP). That's not a long-term solution, but it's one that will keep the FDA happy and put Genzyme in a position to keep improving.

Genzyme isn't close to perfection right now. But regardless of whether Sanofi finally offers a price Genzyme shareholders are willing to accept, Genzyme is taking hard but fruitful steps to improve itself going forward.

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.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Motley Fool Alpha owns shares of LabCorp, which is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. 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 Fool has a disclosure policy.