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 and then decide whether Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) 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.
Moneymaking 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 Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN).
|Factor||What We Want to See||Actual||Pass or Fail?|
|Growth||5-year annual revenue growth > 15%||32.7%||Pass|
|1-year revenue growth > 12%||27.1%||Pass|
|Margins||Gross margin > 35%||24.8%||Fail|
|Net margin > 15%||(0.1%)||Fail|
|Balance sheet||Debt to equity < 50%||53.5%||Fail|
|Current ratio > 1.3||1.12||Fail|
|Opportunities||Return on equity > 15%||(0.5%)||Fail|
|Valuation||Normalized P/E < 20||NM||NM|
|Dividends||Current yield > 2%||0%||Fail|
|5-year dividend growth > 10%||0%||Fail|
|Total score||2 out of 9|
Since we looked at Amazon last year, the company has lost another point after dropping two points from 2011 to 2012. A big jump in the debt-to-equity ratio was responsible for this year’s decline, but the stock has once again ignored the score decline, soaring more than 40% over the past year.
Amazon has shown its ability to diversify into a huge number of different markets. Having demonstrated its superiority in online retail, Amazon has greatly broadened its scope, moving into the mobile-device market with its Kindle Fire tablet, the cloud-computing industry with its Amazon Web Services unit, and the video-streaming business.
But Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) has simply never shown investors that it’s truly interested in maximizing profits. Just last week, the company cut its price on its Kindle Fire HD tablets by $30 to $100, making them more competitive with the smaller iPad mini but suggesting that Amazon was having trouble ridding itself of inventory. Despite assurances from CEO Jeff Bezos that the company is trying to get customers into its ecosystem before reaping more income from them over the long haul, earnings have been moving in the wrong direction for two years, and the company posted its first yearly net loss in a decade during 2012.