Monday, March 30, 2009

How to Select Best Stocks?

I have already posted two posts; one with best stocks for long term investment and another with best small cap stocks. Although I have mentioned the criteria that I considered while selecting the stocks, I would like to describe in detail about those factors in this article.

As we all know, there are more than 5000 companies listed in the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and in my view there are at least 500 decent companies to choose from. So, as an individual investor we need to develop or follow some sort of criteria to select the best possible stocks that suit everyone’s risk profile. I did follow few things to select the stocks that I have listed in my previous posts and would like to share with you.

Criteria to Select Stocks

1) Earnings Per Share (EPS) and PE Ratio

EPS and PE are probably the most used criteria around the world in selecting stocks and it’s not without any reason. EPS and PE values are arrived from important information and that’s why people tend to use it as a single significant factor. But I would actually start with EPS and PE Values and then go on to drill down more about other factors. There is no particular PE Value you can stick with. Lower the PE of a stock (when all other things remain good), better the value. But instead of looking at current year PE, I would suggest to take the average of 10 year PE (At least 5 Yrs) and make sure the stock price is not more than 25 times of that average PE Value. Also look at the forward PE ratios to get the sense of what lies ahead.

2) Book Value

Book Value per share is the total asset value of the firm divided by the total number of shares. Looking at this value might give some confidence about the firm’s worthiness. Also book value per share would be the amount shareholders might get if a company sells all the assets and distribute the proceeds for some reason. If you are able to get good stocks with a stock price less than the book value, it would be good. But make sure you do not pay more than 1.5 times of the book value unless you have some credible evidence about any particular company’s growth.

3) Debt / Equity Ratio

If you divide the total debt by the total equity value, you get this debt/ equity ratio and it gives you the sense of company’s indebtedness. If a company has less than 1 DE ratio, then you can say that the company is in a good financial condition. So, I prefer to invest in companies with less than 1 DE ratio.

4) Current Ratio

If you divide the current assets by the current liabilities, you get the current ratio and bigger this value, better the company among peers.Because current ratio indicates the company’s ability to meet short term financial dealings and we need to make sure that a firm is in a decent position in terms of short term financial needs.

5) Profit Margin

If you divide the net profit by revenue, what you get is the net profit margin and you can calculate net operating margin and other similar values in the same way. Better the margin, better the business and we need to make sure that any particular company earns a decent margin. Select the company with better margins among the peers.

6) Return on Capital Employed (RoCE) and Return on Equity

Return on Capital Employed and Return on Equity indicates the company’s profit making ability in return to the capital employed or the equity position. Again, better the value; better the company and its business. So, peer level comparison might be helpful to select better stocks.

7) Dividend History

If a company has paid dividends continuously over a long period of time, then you can be sure of its intention to share profit with you and also the better handling of the surplus cash available. Hence, looking at the dividend history is important and might help you to make a better decision.

8) Profit Growth

Consistent and decent profit growth over a long period of time is an important factor that we need to look into if we are going to stick with that stock for lengthy periods. There is no single number to think about but we can select the stock with consistent profit growth among peers.

9) Cash Flow Details

As I wrote in one of my previous articles, cash flow is as important as a balance sheet and looking into it gives you an idea about company’s financial health including cash inflow and cash outflow. Consistent growth in cash inflow and better use of it is essential to any company’s success. Hence, carefully look at the cash flow statements (including footnotes) if you are going to invest large amount of money.

10) Business Segment and Future Potential

In stock investments, it is very important to look at the business segment in which the company operates and also the future potential of that particular business as a whole. As you might have seen, a company might be good and if the business is not doing well, it makes little sense to invest in it. You also need to consider if the business is cyclical or non-cyclical or consumer oriented or government owned etc…to get real understanding about the risk of any particular stock. If you are interested in small cap stocks, this is most important factor that one needs to consider in my point of view.

11) Size of the Company

Size of the company is positively associated with the risk potential most of the times. Conservative investors prefer to invest in large cap stocks and risk taking investors who wants to make more money invest in mid cap stocks and also the so called “Multibagger” small cap stocks. So, it really depends on the individuals risk appetite as mid caps and small caps are the ones go down much during the bear phase and go up much during the bull market. Large cap stocks usually have economies of scale benefits and they always stand to gain the volume advantage. Hence lesser volatility.

12) Competitive Advantage

Competitive advantage in the market place is essential for consistent financial performance. If a company operates in a segment where barriers to entry are huge, then you can be sure of your capital at least and your margin of safety is more. Warren Buffet calls this as “Economic Moat” and no wonder he has been so successful.

13) Brand Value or Product Differentiation

Good brand value brings customers on a more consistent basis and that’s the reason FMCG companies command higher valuation all the time. If a company produces a product which is different from others and is difficult to replicate, then that particular company will always command better valuation as investors are confident about its survival over a long period of time.

14) Goodwill

This is an intangible asset companies create over a period of time and it is gained with help from media, political support and solid client base. It usually has some effect on investors.

15) Market Scenario

Finally market scenario comes into play and no matter how big the company is and which business segment it operates, the stock price move according to the market scenario and I am sure most of the people would have good idea about it as we are witnessing once in a life time situation these days.

These are the factors I considered or consider while selecting stocks and it is not necessary to analyze a stock through all of these parameters. You can leave out some criteria for a particular company or you can give more importance to a particular factor and things like that. You can be flexible based on your risk profile. For example, I give more importance to business segment and future potential along with market scenario while selecting small caps and individuals can follow similar patterns according to their skills and risk appetite.

Kumaran Seenivasan.


DARK KNIGHT ABHAY March 31, 2009 at 7:02 AM  

nice post sir..

can u list some of the companies which have good long term dividend record!


Amar April 1, 2009 at 2:43 PM  

extremely useful article, thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Thanks & Regrads

Chirag Ali April 2, 2009 at 8:55 PM  

Hi Kumaran

Thank You very Much for a wonderful Post.

Chirag Ali

Roops July 30, 2009 at 5:51 AM  

hi Kumaran.
can u give some more details on the P/E ratio??

Kumaran July 30, 2009 at 6:41 AM  


If you divide the stock price by EPS, you will get the PE ratio. When everything else look good, lower the PE value, better the stock.


Kishor Tripathy March 30, 2010 at 5:55 AM  

Nice Article! it helped me a lot.

Anonymous,  September 7, 2010 at 3:10 AM  

Very Interesting!
Thank You!

shachi,  September 7, 2011 at 2:33 AM  

Wonderful article! Keep on sharing your knowledge with us.

chnadan,  June 8, 2012 at 7:45 AM  

Nice Blog. Interesting too.
I lost lot of money by bying lot of less known companies also in sugar companies. I was thinking how to get out of share market. But now i will try to recover my losses. It will be very nice if you can help me to get out of the situation.

Manju Singla September 22, 2012 at 9:28 AM  

can u provide short and compete answer interview point of view

Ramanathan S May 17, 2014 at 2:47 AM  

Thanks for the post. A very detailed explanation. Thanks for this.
S Ramanathan


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