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 Akamai Technologies (NASDAQ:AKAM) 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 Akamai Technologies.


What We Want to See


Pass or Fail?


5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15%




1-Year Revenue Growth > 12%




Gross Margin > 35%




Net Margin > 15%



Balance Sheet

Debt to Equity < 50%




Current Ratio > 1.3




Return on Equity > 15%




Normalized P/E < 20




Current Yield > 2%




5-Year Dividend Growth > 10%




Total Score


5 out of 10

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.

Since we looked at Akamai Technologies last year, the company has dropped a point after two straight years of scoring six points, with net margin sliding a bit. That hasn't held the stock back, though, which has posted about a 30% gain over the past year.

Akamai has been in the business of facilitating Internet traffic movement for over a decade. By creating networks of servers with local copies of popular web pages, Akamai makes it easier for users to get the content they want more quickly.

More recently, Akamai has jumped onto the cloud-computing bandwagon. With a partnership with Rackspace Hosting (NYSE:RAX) that combines Akamai's content delivery with Rackspace's expertise in cloud hosting services, both companies benefit from efficiency gains. Meanwhile, teaming up with Riverbed Technology (NASDAQ:RVBD.DL) has helped Akamai put together a powerful combination of speed and deduplication efficiency in creating hybrid clouds.

But Akamai has some troubling storm clouds on the horizon. Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), which has historically used Akamai heavily for delivering streaming content, launched its own content delivery system to boost performance even further. Because Netflix farmed out content delivery to Limelight Networks (NASDAQ: LLNW) and Level 3 Technologies (NYSE:LVLT) as well as Akamai, many feared that the resulting fallout could hurt all three companies badly.

For now, though, Akamai has stepped away from the pack and posted impressive gains. In its most recent quarter, content delivery grew 23%, with the company's cloud infrastructure also posting an impressive revenue gain of 22%.

For Akamai to improve, it needs to squeeze more profits from its growing revenue and consider ways to boost returns on equity. With the potential of the Internet, though, Akamai has plenty of room to strive toward perfection.

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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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.