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Has Accuray Become the Perfect Stock?

By Dan Caplinger - Updated Apr 7, 2017 at 4:40PM

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Finding companies that have all the right stuff can produce winners.

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 Accuray (Nasdaq: ARAY) 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 Accuray.

Factor

What We Want to See

Actual

Pass or Fail?

Growth 5-Year Annual Revenue Growth > 15% 26.6% Pass
  1-Year Revenue Growth > 12% 83.8% Pass
Margins Gross Margin > 35% 34.6% Fail
  Net Margin > 15% (20%) Fail
Balance Sheet Debt to Equity < 50% 36.2% Pass
  Current Ratio > 1.3 1.81 Pass
Opportunities Return on Equity > 15% (41.5%) Fail
Valuation Normalized P/E < 20 NM NM
Dividends Current Yield > 2% 0% Fail
  5-Year Dividend Growth > 10% 0% Fail
       
  Total Score   4 out of 9

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

Since we looked at Accuray last year, the company has kept its four-point score. The medical device maker has seen huge sales growth in the past year, but it came from an acquisition and thus far hasn't translated into consistent profitability.

The field of robotics has revolutionized the medical industry, and a host of companies are trying to take advantage. While Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG) has used its da Vinci surgical systems to dominate prostate procedures and MAKO Surgical (Nasdaq: MAKO) has focused on orthopedic joint procedures, Accuray now has two products -- its legacy CyberKnife, and the TomoTherapy line of systems it obtained in an acquisition almost a year ago. Both are used to fight cancer.

But Accuray can expect to see more direct competition in the years to come. So far, Intuitive, MAKO, and Hansen Medical (Nasdaq: HNSN) have largely stayed out of one another's way, with Hansen specializing in catheter placement. But Varian Medical Systems (NYSE: VAR) goes head-to-head in cancer treatment with devices designed to use radiotherapy and radiosurgical methods.

For Accuray to keep advancing, it needs to demonstrate its competitive advantage over Varian and other medical equipment makers. Given that Varian is profitable and Accuray isn't, that could well prove to be an uphill climb -- but if Accuray can follow the path of pioneer Intuitive Surgical, then it could get a lot closer to perfection eventually.

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 the best investments from the rest.

Accuray 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 Accuray to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

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.

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Stocks Mentioned

Accuray Incorporated Stock Quote
Accuray Incorporated
ARAY
$5.32 (5.35%) $0.27
Varian Medical Systems, Inc. Stock Quote
Varian Medical Systems, Inc.
VAR
MAKO Surgical Corp. Stock Quote
MAKO Surgical Corp.
MAKO.DL
Intuitive Surgical, Inc. Stock Quote
Intuitive Surgical, Inc.
ISRG
$340.80 (0.09%) $0.31
Hansen Medical, Inc. Stock Quote
Hansen Medical, Inc.
HNSN

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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