On finding new stock candidates

On finding new candidates

But one thing I’ve not learned very much about is your prospecting process. For example, how is it that you became aware of ABMD in the first place? What was it that motivated you to further investigate this company when their reporting seems to intentionally obscure rather than illuminate their financial results?

Hi Brittlerock, You asked some good questions. My first post on ABMD described how I found it and why I became interested. Here are my notes again from July:

I got this stock from Keith’s screen. It had earnings like this:

2013:   XX  -04   03   11
2014:   09  -04   09   30
2015:  224

That $2.24 jumped out at me. Quarterly earnings of $2.24 or something, up from 30 cents sequentially and 9 cents the year before. You don’t have to be a genius to realize that something must be wrong with a figure like that! Sure enough, those were silly GAAP earnings instead of real adjusted earnings

They reported $96 million of GAAP income for their fourth fiscal quarter, of which $84 million was a release of valuation tax adjustment (meaning they are writing off all their past tax losses).

Their real operating earnings were $12+ million, which when divided by the number of shares gave the real earnings per share of 28 cents. Still very good, but not ridiculous.

However my research on this led me to read in their transcript that they had 22 quarters in a row of double-digit revenue growth. That sounded pretty impressive. Here are the last three years plus.

2012:   37  39   37   38  =  151
2013:   44  43   44   46  =  177
2014:   50  49   52   62  =  213
2015:   68

The last four quarters revenue were $231 million, the four quarters before that were $183 million, so trailing revenue was up 26%. That’s not bad for revenue growth! And, revenue for the last six months was up 35% (130/96), so revenue growth is even accelerating.

So I looked at adjusted earnings, which was a bit hard to find. Sometimes they gave stock-based comp and sometimes not, so I had to track it down in the 10-Q’s. Taking this much trouble meant I was serious about the company. Also sometimes the legal expenses from the DOJ investigation were broken out and sometimes not. Here’s what adjusted earnings looked looked like, as close as I could figure, by adding back stock-based comp when I found it. Grossly inaccurate, but as close as I could come easily:

2013:   XX  11   10   15
2014:   15  11   19   42
2015:   36

The last four quarters adjusted earnings were $1.08, the four quarters before that were 51 cents, up 112%. The last six months adjusted earnings were up 160%, so earnings growth is accelerating too.

Here’s a business summary: ABIOMED, Inc. was founded in 1981 and is headquartered in Danvers, Massachusetts. It researches, develops, and sells medical devices for circulatory support and care during heart recovery for acute heart failure patients. The company offers:

Impella 2.5 catheter, a percutaneous micro heart pump with integrated motor and sensors for use in interventional cardiology;
Impella CP that provides partial circulatory support using an extracorporeal bypass control unit;
Impella 5.0 catheter and Impella LD, which are percutaneous micro heart pumps with integrated motors and sensors for use primarily in the heart surgery suite; and
Impella RP, a percutaneous catheter-based axial flow pump.

It also manufactures and sells AB5000 circulatory support system for temporary support of acute heart failure patients in profound shock, including patients suffering from cardiogenic shock after a heart attack, post-cardiotomy cardiogenic shock, or myocarditis.

In addition, the company provides Symphony, a synchronized minimally invasive implantable cardiac assist device designed to treat chronic patients with moderate heart failure by improving patient hemodynamics.

Further, it’s working on a percutaneous expandable catheter pump, which enhances blood circulation from the heart with an external drive shaft.

The company sells its products through direct sales and clinical support personnel in the US, Germany, France, Canada, Japan, and the UK.

Gross Margins are 84% and rising.

Operating Margins last quarter were 18%, up from 7% the year before. For the fiscal year they were 12.4%, up from 4.6% the year before.

The PE is 61. Their rate of earnings growth is 112%. Their 1YPEG is 0.54.

Cash of $146 million. No Debt.

Recurring Income - I presume all these little catheters and minipumps are one-time use.

Moat - First mover and need for complicated FDA approvals.

They recently got important FDA approvals, AND the Dept of Justice closed an inquiry about labeling (I think), without bringing any charges, which ends a lot of distraction and a lot of legal expenses which have been impacting GAAP earnings, but which it’s been hard to keep track of. These two developments should transform and accelerate the company and revenue and earnings should increase even faster.

Subsequently it was confirmed that all their income was recurring, which I love. Then they had great second quarter results.

Do you have a process for finding new prospects?

No magic source. I find most as recommendations on MF board, or stocks that fellow Fools have written about on this board or other MF boards.

With literally hundreds of new issues getting some positive press every week, how do you filter them? What are the first things you look at in order to eliminate the far more plentiful chaff rather than waste time on it?

What I look for in a stock is clearly stated in the Knowledgebase!

Do you keep notes on the companies you looked at and eliminated from further consideration?

Absolutely, and sometimes I look back six months or a year later and change my mind with new circumstances.

Is there a consistent set of criteria you look for in order to pull the trigger on a starter position?

Nope, stocks are too varying and individual.

Hope this helps!


For Knowledgebase for this board
please go to Post #9939.

A link to the Knowledgebase is also at the top of the Announcements column
on the right side of every page on this board


Thank you Saul, yes that helps a lot.

I was in the process of composing a reply to your prior response to my question (in a thread on ABMD). I was sorry I had singled out this particular company as an example because you stated that it was “serendipity” that you found it. I was hard pressed to imagine nearly 30 years of very successful investing was reliant on positive chance events.

My real question was about process, not a specific stock. You have addressed that question, though I am somewhat surprised by the answer. I guess I should spend more time reading other MF boards (currently I rarely look at them though I subscribe to SA, RB and HG). At present my portfolio is comprised primarily of stocks that have been discussed on this board, though I owned some of them prior to regularly reading the posts here. Legacy of MF Supernova.

I guess I do have one more process question. I’ve read the KB several times, so I’m familiar with what you look for in a company, but is there a regular order to your investigation? In other words, do you look at earnings first, if you don’t see growth (or any earnings at all for that matter) do you drop it right there and move on? Or revenue? Or maybe the company profile (which is what I always look at first) in order to get a feel for what they do? For example, there was a recent thread here about fertilizer companies. I saw commodity and was immediately disinterested, even though it appears that one of the companies seems to have a near monopoly (the only way to have pricing power in a commodity market - if you’ve read The Godfather you can see an example with olive oil, but I digress). It just seems you are very efficient, or maybe that’s a false impression. Anyway, I am just wondering if there’s a method you have to expedite your research.


…you stated that it was “serendipity” that you found it. I was hard pressed to imagine nearly 30 years of very successful investing was reliant on positive chance events. - brittlerock


I enjoy your posts and mostly lurk on this board. I have been interested in the word serendipity since I was in grade school. You will be pleased to know that it is the confusion over the definition of serendipity that made it hard for you to accept Saul’s statement.

The definition of serendipity is difficult to translate and has been watered down over recent years. Serendipity is the ability to recognize good fortune. It is also defined as an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. In my opinion it is erroneous to simply define serendipity as good luck. Serendipity is active not passive.

So I would say that Saul did not rely “on positive chance events.” The positive chance events are happening in many places at multiple times. Serendipity is the ability to recognize them. If we think of serendipity this way it makes more sense.

Have fun,