Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Is Amazon.com the Perfect Stock?

By Dan Caplinger – Updated Apr 6, 2017 at 11:07PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Finding companies that have all the right stuff can produce winners.

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 Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) 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 Amazon.com.

Factor

What We Want to See

Actual

Pass or Fail?

Growth 5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15% 32.1% Pass
  1-Year Revenue Growth > 12% 39.6% Pass
Margins Gross Margin > 35% 22.3% Fail
  Net Margin > 15% 3.4% Fail
Balance Sheet Debt to Equity < 50% 9.4% Pass
  Current Ratio > 1.3 1.33 Pass
Opportunities Return on Equity > 15% 19% Pass
Valuation Normalized P/E < 20 82.31 Fail
Dividends Current Yield > 2% 0% Fail
  5-Year Dividend Growth > 10% 0% Fail
       
  Total Score   5 out of 10

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

Amazon weighs in with a midrange score of 5. Although long-term shareholders have gotten rich by investing in the online retail giant, those looking to get in now have to weigh sky-high valuations and a lack of dividend income against the company's strong future growth prospects.

Amazon is best-known for its online shopping website, but it has its fingers in a bunch of different pies. With its Kindle, it has helped establish a thriving e-book market that has helped put rival Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) almost down for the count . Its cloud-computing business is the low-end leader in the area, forcing competitor Rackspace (NYSE: RAX) to differentiate itself on providing higher service to capture higher-margin business.

Most recently, Amazon decided to go head-to-head with Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) by offering streaming video free to its Amazon Prime premium subscribers. Although some see the move as a strategic mistake, Amazon hasn't hesitated to experiment with new ideas and has shown the discipline to reverse course when things don't work out.

Retail is by its nature a low-margin business, and with no dividend and shares going for a pricey multiple to trailing earnings, Amazon misses out on several points that would make it closer to perfect. The primary question going forward is whether the company can continue growing as fast as its valuation suggests it will. If it does, then shareholders should keep reaping benefits for 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 out the best investments from the rest.

Click here to add Amazon.com to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

Finding the perfect stock is only one piece of a successful investment strategy. Get the big picture by taking a look at our 13 Steps to Investing Foolishly.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Amazon.com and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Rackspace Hosting 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.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Netflix, Inc. Stock Quote
Netflix, Inc.
NFLX
$225.12 (-0.57%) $-1.29
Amazon.com, Inc. Stock Quote
Amazon.com, Inc.
AMZN
$115.95 (1.91%) $2.17
Barnes & Noble, Inc. Stock Quote
Barnes & Noble, Inc.
BKS
Rackspace Hosting, Inc. Stock Quote
Rackspace Hosting, Inc.
RAX

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
329%
 
S&P 500 Returns
106%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 09/26/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.