"I don't look to jump over seven-foot bars: I look around for one-foot bars that I can step over."  -- Warren Buffett

If you're in the market for those one-foot bars Buffett loves, here's one of the best places to look: companies beaten to such a pulp that just their net amount of cash on hand represents a significant portion of the share price. In some cases, you're being handed the actual business operations for free -- or at least, close to it. Doesn't get much better than that, does it?

Using our Motley Fool CAPS screening tool, I searched for companies fitting these bargain-basement criteria. Specifically, I looked for:

  • Estimates of profitability in 2009.
  • No long-term debt.
  • A high level of total cash in relation to current share price.

Pretty simple, eh? Among others, I came across these five:


Market Cap

Recent Price

Total Cash per Share

2009 Earnings Estimates

CAPS Rating   
(5 stars max.)

Alvarion Limited (NASDAQ:ALVR)

$246 million





Global Sources (NASDAQ:GSOL)

$259 million






$2.8 billion





Monster Worldwide (NYSE:MWW)

$1.4 billion





Pain Therapeutics (NASDAQ:PTIE)

$265 million





Data from Motley Fool CAPS, Yahoo! Finance, as of Jan. 8. TTM= trailing 12 months.

You can run the same screen yourself, if you like. None of these are formal buy recommendations -- just a good starting point for more research, and a strong indication that these companies might merit your attention.

A Monster opportunity?
Jobs are evaporating. Those who still have them are hanging on for dear life. Companies that have openings are recruiting internally. It's a mess.

Consequently, I understand the negativity surrounding online recruiter Monster Worldwide. Its prospects today look pretty abysmal. As CAPS member KipLargo put it in September:

If the supply of labor is plentiful, i.e market downturn, employers have little need for this service: 1. because they are not hiring 2. because there's little competition for talent when a job does require filling. The unemployed or worried they'll become unemployed will flock to monster, but the site is free, so no money there. 

Sure, there're a gazillion reasons to be glum about Monster amid today's pitiful job market. Pessimism isn't hard to find near this stock. In fact, that's what I like about it.                                

Who said all Monsters were scary?
The biggest gains in the stock market go to those who double down when a company's prospects look bleakest. Had you bought ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) in 1999, when it was tough to give oil away, you would have been vindicated multiple times over. Conversely, you'd now look reckless buying Mosaic (NYSE:MOS) at $160 this summer, when its prospects look irrefutably unshakeable. The time to buy is when investors can line up in droves to tell you why you should sell, which seems to be the consensus with Monster Worldwide these days.

That said, I'm siding with CAPS member cwlawrence, who wrote back in September:

When employers start hiring again this company is going to profit. They have zero debt and … low p/e in relation to the industry average. Their price to book ratio is quite low too.

Maybe not zero debt; Monster had $247 million borrowed under a short-term credit facility at the end of last quarter. But no long-term debt, indeed. And with more than $600 million in cash, there's plenty of ammo to not only cover that liability, but also leave shareholders with a sturdy margin of safety to boot.

Just how cheap is Monster? Net out the short-term borrowings, and the company has $2.91 per share in cash. Strip that out from the current $11.50 share price, and you're looking at a company that has grown at more than 29% annually for the past five years, trading at just 11 times forward earnings. Game. Set. Match.

Sure, there are ominous clouds hanging over Monster right now, but the bulletproof balance sheet and rock-bottom valuation compensate with safety and opportunity. Keep it simple, and buy when there's blood in the streets.      

Want to see where more than 125,000 other investors are sharing ideas, poring over data, and otherwise debating until the cows come home? Click here to give CAPS a try. It won't cost you a dime.

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Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Alvarion is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.