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The Gap Inc. (GPS), NIKE, Inc. (NKE): Has Lululemon Athletica inc. (LULU) Become the Perfect Stock?

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 Lululemon Athletica inc. (NASDAQ:LULU) fits the bill.

The quest for perfection

Lululemon Athletica inc. (LULU)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 Lululemon Athletica inc. (NASDAQ:LULU).

Factor What We Want to See Actual Pass or Fail?
Growth 5-year annual revenue growth > 15% 38.4% Pass
1-year revenue growth > 12% 36.9% Pass
Margins Gross margin > 35% 55.7% Pass
Net margin > 15% 19.7% Pass
Balance sheet Debt to equity < 50% 0% Pass
Current ratio > 1.3 5.90 Pass
Opportunities Return on equity > 15% 36.3% Pass
Valuation Normalized P/E < 20 38.70 Fail
Dividends Current yield > 2% 0% Fail
5-year dividend growth > 10% 0% Fail
Total score 7 out of 10

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

Since we looked at lululemon athletica last year, the company has kept its seven-point score for the third year in a row. The stock, though, hasn’t kept up the pace, falling 15% over the past year.

Lululemon has vaulted onto the athletic apparel scene in recent years, with its focus on yoga apparel creating and defining a new niche. With customer-centered moves like having yoga ambassadors recommend its products, Lululemon Athletica inc. (NASDAQ:LULU) has seen spectacular growth.

What has sent shares falling recently, though, is the combination of sky-high multiples and fears that Lululemon’s high growth rates are starting to slow. In its earnings report last week, Lululemon reported 31% higher revenue for the quarter and a profit gain of nearly 50%, beating analysts’ expectations and capping a 2012 that saw sales rise nearly 37% and the bottom line grow 47%. Yet shares tanked after the company recalled some of its yoga-pant lines because of quality-control issues. Moreover, with Lululemon having to cut its 2013 guidance in light of the recall, it looks like growth will slow down considerably this year.

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