Every investor would love to stumble upon the perfect stock. But will you ever really find a stock that provides everything you could possibly want?

One thing's for sure: You'll never discover truly great investments unless you actively look for them. Let's discuss the ideal qualities of a perfect stock, then decide if MIPS Technologies (Nasdaq: MIPS) fits the bill.

The quest for perfection
Stocks that look great based on one factor may prove horrible elsewhere, making due diligence a crucial part of your investing research. The best stocks excel in many different areas, including these important factors:

  • 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 mean nothing if a company can't produce profits from them. Strong margins ensure that company can turn revenue into profit.
  • Balance sheet. At debt-laden companies, banks and bondholders compete with shareholders for management's attention. Companies with strong balance sheets don't have to worry about the distraction of debt.
  • Money-making opportunities. Return on equity helps measure how well a company is finding opportunities to turn its resources into profitable business endeavors.
  • Valuation. You can't afford to pay too much for even the best companies. By using normalized figures, you can see how a stock's simple earnings multiple fits into a longer-term context.
  • Dividends. For tangible proof of profits, a check to shareholders every three months can't be beat. 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 MIPS Technologies.


What We Want to See


Pass or Fail?

Growth 5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15% 7.9% Fail
  1-Year Revenue Growth > 12% 45.5% Pass
Margins Gross Margin > 35% 98.1% Pass
  Net Margin > 15% 26.1% Pass
Balance Sheet Debt to Equity < 50% 0% Pass
  Current Ratio > 1.3 6.99 Pass
Opportunities Return on Equity > 15% 32.3% Pass
Valuation Normalized P/E < 20 24.69 Fail
Dividends Current Yield > 2% 0% Fail
  5-Year Dividend Growth > 10% 0% Fail
  Total Score   6 out of 10

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

With six points, MIPS Technologies has posted some impressive past performance. But looking forward, things don't look quite as bright for the chipmaker as they once did.

MIPS licenses semiconductor designs for electronic devices, but during its early history, it didn't have much of a hand in the hot home entertainment and networking device areas. But that has changed more recently, as Sigma Designs (Nasdaq: SIGM) turned to MIPS over rival ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH) to help it in Sigma's battle in the digital media space. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is working with MIPS to provide chips for several Android devices. Shares soared in response.

But late last month, MIPS announced earnings that disappointed investors, causing the stock to lose more than a quarter of its value. Not only did current numbers fall short, but the company also reduced its full-year revenue target for the coming year and said it expects a decline in royalty income.

With a host of Android manufacturers looking into MIPS technology as well as backing from Sigma and Broadcom (Nasdaq: BRCM), MIPS isn't about to fall off a cliff. But its lofty growth expectations have started to face reality. With the stock now fetching less than half what they did in January, now's a good time for value investors to look to see if they think MIPS can wake up and start firing on all cylinders again.

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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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.

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.