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 Universal Display (Nasdaq: PANL) 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 Universal Display.


What We Want to See


Pass or Fail?

Growth 5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15% 20.8% Pass
  1-Year Revenue Growth > 12% 69.4% Pass
Margins Gross Margin > 35% (6.3%) Fail
  Net Margin > 15% (75%) Fail
Balance Sheet Debt to Equity < 50% 0% Pass
  Current Ratio > 1.3 3.40 Pass
Opportunities Return on Equity > 15% (32.7%) Fail
Valuation Normalized P/E < 20 NM Fail
Dividends Current Yield > 2% 0% Fail
  5-Year Dividend Growth > 10% 0% Fail
  Total Score   4 out of 10

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

With just four points, Universal Display isn't close to perfection. But the company's promising technology gives the stock a lot of potential for future gains.

Universal Display is a pioneer in organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs. The technology uses organic compounds that produce light when electricity passes through them, making it useful in applications from televisions and computer screens to lighting. The company counts Sony (NYSE: SNE) among its customers.

But where the future for OLED technology really shines is in smartphone displays. Universal Display already has licensing agreements with Samsung and LG Display (NYSE: LPL), but it still has plenty of room to run. With smartphones from Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI), Nokia (NYSE: NOK), and Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) among many using OLED screens, Universal Display has a huge opportunity to break into the market in a bigger way.

So far, Universal Display hasn't cracked that nut, and its string of net losses bears that out. But if the company can capitalize as its technology finally hits mainstream applications, profits could be right around the corner -- and this could look a lot more like the perfect stock in the years to come.

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 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. Universal Display is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. 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.