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 Cheniere Energy (NYSEMKT:LNG) 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 a 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 Cheniere Energy.


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


3 out of 9

Source: S&P Capital IQ. NM = not meaningful due to negative earnings. Total score = number of passes.

Since we looked at Cheniere Energy last year, the company has picked up a point, as its shareholder equity turned positive. But the shares have given investors a big reward recently, more than doubling over the past year, as shareholders increasingly look forward to a big project on the horizon.

Cheniere is far from a household name among energy companies, but it's seeking to become one. Earlier this year, the company and its Cheniere Energy Partners (NYSEMKT:CQP) subsidiary got approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a permit covering its planned Sabine Pass liquefied natural gas terminal. The move paves the way for the company to export plentiful and cheap U.S. natural gas to areas of the world where it's far more expensive, reaping arbitrage benefits.

Gas producers have jumped on the bandwagon to supply Cheniere's export capacity. For instance, just this week, Total (NYSE:TTE) made a deal to provide 2 million tons of LNG per year, boosting Cheniere's revenue projections going forward.

But Cheniere faces LNG competition, both domestically and internationally. Earlier this month, Sempra Energy (NYSE:SRE) applied for approval to build similar export facilities at its own Louisiana terminal, and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) filed similar paperwork back in August to add LNG capacity at its Port Arthur plant. With ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) looking at LNG production in Australia, and several companies looking northward to take advantage of Canadian opportunities, Cheniere needs to work hard to make the most of its first-mover advantage.

For Cheniere to improve, paying a dividend from the cash flow that could result from its exports will definitely be a step in the right direction. With the Sabine Pass plant years away from completion, though, don't expect a fast move toward perfection for Cheniere.

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.