Had Jerry Maguire been an investor instead of a fictional sports agent, he might have become famous for yelling, "Show me the cash flow!"

Earnings come and go, and the green-eyeshade types can legally manipulate it to mask a company's true operations. Yet its ability to generate cash -- what comes into the register and goes out the door -- remains the preeminent indicator of company's worth. In short, cash is king.

Below, we'll look at companies that are prodigious generators of free cash flow (FCF) -- the amount of money a company has left over that it could pay to its investors. We'll find companies with compounded free cash flow growth rates exceeding 25% annually over the past five years, then pair them with opinions from Motley Fool CAPS, where more than 150,000 members share investor intelligence, to see which ones might outperform the market.


Levered FCF 5-Year

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Advance Auto Parts (NYSE:AAP)






Hansen Natural (NASDAQ:HANS)



Johnson Controls (NYSE:JCI)



Transocean (NYSE:RIG)



Source: Capital IQ (a division of Standard & Poor's); Motley Fool CAPS. CAGR=compounded annual growth rate.

Generating copious amounts of cash doesn't make a company an automatic buy. But having looked at Enron's cash flows instead of its earnings would have saved many investors a lot of grief. Warren Buffett understands that the value of a company today is calculated by its discounted future cash flows, so use this list as a jumping-off point to dig deeper into the piles of cash.

When the decade started, Hansen Natural was a stock with a minuscule market cap of just $43 million. Fast-forward 10 years, and the Monster energy drink maker is a monster stock valued in excess of $3.4 billion -- even after losing more than 40% of its value over the past two years.

We've all heard the admonition "past performance is no guarantee of future results," and there's no denying Hansen isn't the rocket stock it was. But it's not as mature as Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), either, so investors can still expect to see growth, though perhaps not the liquid-fuel variety of the past. That means that some investors might think the stock is a little rich at 28 times trailing earnings and 15 times 2010's profits.

Yet Coke, which turned in a monster quarter of its own, also trades at 15 times this year's earnings, and PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) is similarly valued. Hansen's growth profile has CAPS member noirblood figuring there is still room to run.

Successful and certainly no hidden gem. Gotta love the growth in their numbers though, and the logical path for further future growth. 12% net profit margin, 56% 5-year revenue growth, 74% 5-year EPS growth, up 20% from price one year ago, but room to run if growth continues.

In the driver's seat
You wouldn't think Johnson Controls would be able to make cash, let alone generate profits, considering it makes parts for the auto industry and building efficiency systems used in the commercial real estate market. Yet the company reported a $350 million profit a few weeks ago, and management said the rest of 2010 looks pretty good, too, because the economy seems to be on the mend.

CAPS member docjohn18 looks to a healthier automotive industry in particular -- Toyota's massive recalls not withstanding -- to move Johnson Controls higher: "US auto sales increase, well diversified, battery maker for electric and hybrid cars."

Almost 95% of the nearly 1,000 members of CAPS who have rated Johnson Controls say it will outperform the market. Add your thoughts on whether it will do so.

Follow the money
While these stocks have left a trail of dollars, it pays to start your own research on Motley Fool CAPS. Read a company's financial reports, scrutinize key data and charts, and examine the comments your fellow investors have made -- all from a stock's CAPS page. Head over to the completely free CAPS service and let us hear what you've got to say about these or any other stocks that you think will continue to roll in the dough.

Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Google and Hansen Natural are Rule Breakers picks. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are Income Investor recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the other stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.