Has PPL Corporation (PPL) Become the Perfect Stock?

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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 PPL Corporation (NYSE:PPL) fits the bill.

PPL CorporationThe 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 PPL.

Factor What We Want to See Actual Pass or Fail?
Growth 5-year annual revenue growth > 15% 13.7% Fail
1-year revenue growth > 12% (3.5%) Fail
Margins Gross margin > 35% 37.2% Pass
Net margin > 15% 12.4% Fail
Balance sheet Debt to equity < 50% 191.7% Fail
Current ratio > 1.3 0.90 Fail
Opportunities Return on equity > 15% 14.2% Fail
Valuation Normalized P/E < 20 13.50 Pass
Dividends Current yield > 2% 4.8% Pass
5-year dividend growth > 10% 3.4% Fail
Total score 3 out of 10

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.

Since we looked at PPL last year, the company gave back the point it gained from 2011 to 2012. Revenue fell, but the stock managed to gain almost 10% over the past year.

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