Trading at $9.95 as of May 3, 2002

Mom, you know I'm not one to jinx tradition. When my Stocks for Mom pieces have centered around your travels, they've fared fairly well. From last year's timely short of Delta Air Lines(NYSE: DAL) to presenting you with the company that would evolve into Travelocity(Nasdaq: TVLY)two years earlier, staying on the runway-lit path has worked far better than when I've strayed to offer up Net plays like eBay(Nasdaq: EBAY) and RealNetworks(Nasdaq: RNWK).

As you and dad globetrot -- often against your will -- you've noticed that old-fashioned hotel keys are going the way of the buggy whip. Between guests swiping or losing keys to the costly nuisance of having to re-key rooms, even the more historical lodging establishments have taken to the disposable keycard.

If announced mergers would be certain pairings, I'd have an easy suggestion for you this time out. Last summer, when Zebra Technologies(Nasdaq: ZBRA) reported that it would be acquiring Fargo Electronics(Nasdaq: FRGO), it would have joined up the two key players in the business of personalized plastic card systems. As a matter of fact, the companies pretty much cornered the market.

Laying the blame on the possibility that the Federal Trade Commission might not approve the pending monopoly, though probably inspired by their growth prospects living apart, the companies mutually called off their merger plans in March.

Fargo was naturally tight-lipped during the courtship. Even as product demand picked up, the company was reticent and willing to swallow its $7.25 a share buyout price. But when Fargo was finally free to discuss its own potential after the deal fell apart, it was clear that the company also held the keycard to wealth.

Fargo spoke. Fargo looked ahead. The company expressed its comfort in earning between $0.50 and $0.65 a share this year. That would indicate bottom line growth of at least 50% this year. But, it gets even better. The company also said it expects next year's profit showing to be a fivefold improvement from 2000's $3 million effort. If you take Fargo at its word, that's $15 million divided by 12 million shares outstanding -- $1.25 a share in net income next year.

Did Zebra really think it was going to get away with this? Buying a company with accelerating earnings and improving fundamentals for less than six times next year's earning estimates? What's even harder to believe is that you don't have to pay that much more for your one-way ticket to Fargo today. The stock, unshackled, soared last month. But even on its April close of $10.20, that's still just eight times next year's profits for a company growing at a rate many times that.

Fargo is showing up everywhere. See, it's not just about programmable room keys. From transit fare cards to student meal cards to casino loyalty programs, Fargo is providing low-cost solutions for producing necessary identification systems. With built-in "smart chips" and barcodes, so much is possible in disposable tracking technology nowadays. The country's heightened security measures have deemed it so.

Analysts were on hiatus while Fargo was a bride-in-waiting. They'll come back. A few weeks ago, Raymond James upgraded the stock. As a matter of fact, at the company's March quarter conference call, it was only Raymond James analyst Chris Quilty asking questions. He's pegged next year's earnings at a conservative $0.95 a stub showing. That's still a pre-teen profit multiple on 50% bottom line growth. Zebra, not exactly a slouch with earnings set to climb by 20% next year, is fetching 20 times 2003 results. There's value to be unlocked in Fargo. Here, Mom, let me print you out a key.

Next: Constellation Brands »

Rick Aristotle Munarriz enjoyed the movie Fargo, has been to the city of Fargo, and, alas, owns shares in Fargo Electronics, too. Rick's stock holdings can be viewed online, as can the Fool's disclosure policy.

A Stock for Mom represents the opinion of one Fool and should in no way be taken as the opinion of either The Motley Fool, Inc. or the company in question, or as representative of anyone or anything other than that specific Fool's thoughts.