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 FuelCell Energy
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 FuelCell Energy.
What We Want to See
Pass or Fail?
|Growth||5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15%||29.8%||Pass|
|1-Year Revenue Growth > 12%||51.2%||Pass|
|Margins||Gross Margin > 35%||(6.5%)||Fail|
|Net Margin > 15%||(32.4%)||Fail|
|Balance Sheet||Debt to Equity < 50%||54.1%||Fail|
|Current Ratio > 1.3||1.12||Fail|
|Opportunities||Return on Equity > 15%||(61.3%)||Fail|
|Valuation||Normalized P/E < 20||NM||NM|
|Dividends||Current Yield > 2%||0%||Fail|
|5-Year Dividend Growth > 10%||0%||Fail|
|Total Score||2 out of 9|
Source: S&P Capital IQ. NM = not meaningful due to negative earnings. Total score = number of passes.
Since we looked at FuelCell Energy last year, the company has lost a point. Higher revenue helped bolster the alternative energy company, but a big increase in debt has hurt its balance sheet.
At first glance, FuelCell looks like a highly speculative play at best. Although the company managed to eke out a positive gross margin in its third-quarter results last year, it still is losing substantial amounts of money. Still, the stock has rebounded sharply in 2012, as both FuelCell and rival Ballard Power
Much of FuelCell's recent success comes from a big order from the utility subsidiary of South Korea's POSCO
But FuelCell will need the much-larger POSCO's help to ward off big competitors. Both General Electric
For FuelCell to become a perfect stock, it first needs to become profitable on a consistent basis. Until fuel-cell technology takes off as a more mainstream solution for energy needs, FuelCell will continue to struggle to keep its income out of the red.
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.
FuelCell Energy isn't the perfect stock, but we've got some ideas you may like better. Let me invite you to learn about three smart long-term stock plays in the Fool's latest special report. It's yours for the taking and is absolutely free, but don't miss out -- click here and read it today.
Click here to add FuelCell Energy to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.