Call me lazy, but I firmly believe that there's no need for an investor, no matter how clever he thinks he is, to reinvent the wheel. In other words, don't be too proud to take cues from your peers.
One of the places I enjoy getting stock ideas for further research is the Fool's own Fab 15 board. (A free trial will let you check it out.) The board's denizens concentrate on finding fast-growing, profitable (gasp!) companies like Hansen Natural
Perhaps we should explain that. PainCare's growth strategy is fueled by aggressive acquisitions. By the way, "aggressive" is management's term, not mine. By now there should be folks out there thinking "HealthSouth," or even "Ponzi," and I don't blame them. Just how is it possible that a company that was reportedly founded in 2000 with $350,000 cash can be worth nearly $200 million today? Ah, the wonders of cheap shell companies -- the public PainCare comes from a former robotics company -- credit, press, and an inflating stock price.
The concept doesn't hurt, either. The notion seems to have great legs: As a generation of baby boomers lives longer and gets ever more creaky, it will need more and more of the kinds of pain-management services that PainCare has chosen to gather. Lumping them together delivers synergies and growth, so the story goes. But I'm really not sure I buy it.
Anyone who does will need to have a stout heart and a major -- maybe even painful -- dose of faith. Take a peek under the hood. Well over half the firm's $95 million in assets are goodwill, meaning that the company is paying a healthy premium beyond asset value for these acquisitions. (Well, let's call it a hefty premium instead. We'll judge whether it was healthy later.)
There's an amazing variety of debt and warrants to keep track of, plus plenty of leases, and the ever-increasing pool of shares. And good luck judging the ability of the firm to deliver efficiency or growth beyond that which comes by swapping borrowed cash and stock for new practices. If you scan the nation's business rags, you come across anecdotal claims of major improvements, such as 40% growth in two years, but given that the doctor making this particular declaration holds more than a million shares (as part of his buyout agreement), judge it accordingly.
Finally, with the CFO making statements like "One thing is clear: PainCare's growth momentum is showing no signs of stalling or slowing anytime in the near future," you can expect to be swimming with the momentum sharks when you buy shares. As my colleague Stephen Simpson remarked when we discussed it, this is definitely not a stock for widows and orphans. With growth fueled by acquisitions that are in turn fueled by borrowing and inflating stock price, which is in turn fueled by hype, I'm not sure this is a good stock for anyone, especially if that cycle breaks.
We've taken pains to compile this recent Foolishness:
- You want medical robots? We got your medical robots.
- Sometimes, the best way to enjoy the future is to get in on the game.
- Is Ultra Petroleum continuing that ultra-growth?
Looking for growth with more gusto? Our Rule Breakers newsletter is dedicated to finding companies with sustainable advantages. A free trial will let you see what's coming up.
Seth Jayson still thinks pain care is a squirt of Bactine and an exhortation to "walk it off." At the time of publication, he had positions in no firm mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.