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Top Five Small-Cap Stocks: Stepan

Our buy rating for Balchem has not changed since June 2003. The company reported record quarterly results in net sales and net earnings for the first quarter of fiscal 2008. Balchem achieved net sales of $56.9 million, reflecting a 35% year-over-year increase. Net earnings increased 35% to $4.6 million in the same period. As a result, earnings per share increased 31.6% to 25 cents.

Management reported that the integration of several acquisitions made during fiscal 2007 have gone well, and stated that the first-quarter results did not yet reflect the company's full expectations for those acquisitions. Additionally, management noted again that rising raw material costs are expected to remain a challenge for Balchem in the near term. While the company has taken pricing steps to counteract the effects of these increased input costs, the actions taken in the first quarter did not offset all the cost increases, primarily due to timing. Overall, management expects the remainder of fiscal 2008 to continue to bring double-digit increases in sales and earnings. Bear in mind, however, that global economic issues could affect the company's results.

Stepan (SCL - Get Report) is a global manufacturer that produces specialty and intermediate chemicals. These products are sold to other manufacturers to be made into a variety of end products. The company operates in three business segments: surfactants, polymers and specialty products. Surfactants are the key products in consumer and industrial cleaning products, creating the foaming and cleaning properties of products such as toothpastes, detergents and shampoos. Polymers such as phthalic anhydride and polyols are used in plastics, building materials and refrigeration systems, as well as in coating, adhesive, sealant and elastomer applications. Stepan also produces custom-made specialty products to meet the individual needs of clients. These chemicals include food flavorings and other products used in the food and pharmaceutical industries.

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