Top 5 Fast-Growth Stocks for March 2

DeVry, Gilead, Haemonetics, Abbott and HMS make the list.
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Each business day, Ratings Ratings compiles a list of the top five stocks in one of five categories -- fast-growth, all-around value, large-cap, mid-cap and small-cap -- based on data from the close of the previous trading session. Today, fast-growth stocks are in the spotlight.

These are stocks of companies that are projected to increase revenue and profit by at least 12% in the coming year and rank near the top all stocks rated by our proprietary quantitative model, which looks at over 60 factors.

In addition, the stocks must be followed by at least one financial analyst who posts estimates on the Institutional Brokers' Estimate System. Please note that definitions of revenue vary by industry, and this screen does not make adjustments for acquisitions, which can materially affect posted results. Likewise, earnings-per-share growth may be affected by accounting charges, share repurchases and other one-time items.

Note that no provision is made for off-balance-sheet assets such as unrealized appreciation/depreciation of investments, market value of real estate or contingent liabilities that might affect book value. This could be material for some companies with large underfunded pension plans.



is an international higher education company that operates DeVry University, Ross University, Chamberlin College of Nursing, and Becker Professional Review. The company has been

rated a buy

since January 2007. DeVry's strengths can be seen in a variety of areas, such as its impressive record of earnings-per-share growth, robust revenue growth, return on equity, and largely solid financial position. Soild stock price performance also contributes to the buy rating.

The company announced on Jan. 27 that its revenues rose 35% year over year in the second quarter of fiscal 2009, helped by increased revenue across segments and the acquisition of U.S. Education, which is the parent company of Apollo College and Western Career College. Revenue growth appears to have trickled down to the bottom line, as DeVry reported EPS improvement of 20.4%. Higher enrollment numbers also helped boost earnings. Net income also increased, rising to $42.9 million from $35.8 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2008. Return on equity, which improved slightly when compared to the same quarter a year ago, can be seen as a modest strength for the organization. In addition, a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.2 indicates that DeVry has successfully managed its debt levels.

Management was pleased not only with DeVry's financial results in the second quarter, but also with the employment rate of its graduates. Management stated that it was remarkable in the current job market to see 92% of recent graduates employed within six months of graduation. The company continues with a conservative capital structure that it feels is appropriate to the current economic climate, although it does continue to invest in growth opportunities. Looking ahead, DeVry expects its full year 2009 capital expenditure to be in the range of $65.00 million to $70 million. Although the company shows low profit margins, we feel that the strengths detailed above outweigh any weaknesses at this time.

Gilead Sciences

(GILD) - Get Report

is a biopharmaceutical company that discovers, develops and commercializes therapeutics to advance the care of patients suffering from life-threatening diseases worldwide. We

upgraded Gilead to a buy

in October 2008, based on such strengths as the company's revenue growth, return on equity, solid stock price performance, and impressive record of EPS growth.

For the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008, revenue increased 30.5% year over year on higher product sales. Product sales surged 35.3%, driven by strong growth of antiviral product sales (these in turn make up the most significant portion of overall revenue for the company). Fourth quarter net income improved 41.5% when compared to the same quarter last year, primarily due to increased sales of Gilead's HIV drugs. Boosted by the improved revenue, EPS increased 46.3% in the most recent quarter, continuing a trend of positive EPS growth over the past two years. A slight improvement in return on equity makes that measure a modest strength for the organization.

Looking at where the stock price is today, we see that it is not only higher than it was a year ago, but it has also outperformed the rise in the

S&P 500

over the same period. The company's strong earnings growth may have been key to this performance, although other factors clearly paid a role. Although the company may harbor some minor weaknesses, we feel that they are unlikely to significantly impact future results and therefore consider this stock as having good upside potential in most market conditions.


(HAE) - Get Report

is a global leader in blood processing technology, designing, manufacturing, and marketing automated blood processing systems and single use consumables for blood donors and surgical patients. Our

buy rating

for Haemonetics has been in place since February 2004, based on such strengths as the company's robust revenue growth, largely solid financial position, improvement in net income and EPS, and solid stock price performance.

For the third quarter of fiscal 2009, the company reported on February 2 that its revenue rose 15.5% year over year, with double-digit growth recorded across all geographies. This improvement slightly outpaced the industry average of 13.6%. It also appears to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, as EPS increased 14.8% when compared to the same quarter a year ago. Net income grew 13.1%, rising from $14.3 million to $16.2 million. Haemonetics has a very low debt-to-equity ratio of 0.02, implying that it has successfully managed its debt levels. In addition, a quick ratio of 2.9 indicates that the company has the ability to cover its short-term cash needs.

Due to stronger-than-planned sales of plasma disposables, blood bank disposables, and equipment and the strong third quarter revenue results from all geographies, Haemonetics raised its full year revenue guidance. The company now anticipates revenue growth of 15% to 16%, up from previously announced expectations for 12% to 14% full year revenue growth. The company shows somewhat disappointing return on equity, but we feel that the strengths detailed above outweigh any potential weakness at this time.

Abbott Laboratories

(ABT) - Get Report

is a global, broad-based healthcare company that discovers, develops, manufactures, and sells a diversified line of products that range from nutritional products and laboratory diagnostics to medical devices and pharmaceutical therapies. Key products include pharmaceuticals like Humira and Simcor and nutritional products such as Ensure, Pedialyte, Pediasure, and Similac. We have

rated Abbott a buy

since April 2007, based on a variety of strengths that include the company's growth in revenue and net income, impressive record of EPS growth, and expanding profit margins.

For the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008, the company reported revenue growth of 10.1% year over year. Revenue growth appears to have helped boost EPS, which improved 15.6% to 89 cents from 77 cents in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2007. Net income increased 27.7% when compared to the same quarter a year ago. Gross profit margin is rather high at 60.9%, but it has managed to decrease from the same period last year. In addition, a net profit margin of 19.3% compares favorably to the industry average.

Management was pleased with the company's strong results in 2008, including the fact that the company outperformed its growth expectations for the year. In addition, new product launches during 2008 significantly expanded the company's product portfolio. Due to its ongoing business momentum and previously enacted strategic actions, the company believes it is on target for double-digit growth in 2009. Previously issued guidance for fiscal 2009 was confirmed by management, with EPS expected in the range of $3.65 and $3.70. Although the stock itself has shown rather lackluster performance recently, we currently feel that the strengths detailed above are enough to balance any potential weakness. Keep in mind, however, that the Pharmaceuticals industry as a whole is vulnerable to patent expirations and legislative threats to pricing power.

HMS Holdings

(HMSY) - Get Report

provides a variety of cost containment and payment accuracy services relating to government healthcare programs. We have

rated this stock a buy

since September 2004 on the basis of such strengths as the company's largely solid financial position, good cash flow from operations, and growth in revenue, net income, and EPS.

For the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008, the company reported that its earnings surged 74.9% on higher revenue. Net income rose from $4 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2007 to $7.1 million in the most recent quarter. Revenue increased 25.8% year over year, greatly exceeding the industry average of 7%. This increase, led by strong revenue growth in each of the government healthcare program markets, appears to have helped boost EPS, which showed significant improvement over the same quarter a year ago, rising from 15 cents to 26 cents per share. HMS Holdings has a very low debt-to-equity ratio of 0.1, which implies that it has successfully managed its debt levels. In addition, a quick ratio of 3.2 clearly demonstrates an ability to cover short-term cash needs. Finally, net operating cash flow increased 17.5% when compared to the same quarter of last year.

Having had a record year in terms of revenue growth and profitability, the company expects to see strong results continue into the next fiscal year. Looking ahead to fiscal 2009, HMS Holdings raised its earnings outlook to $1 per share from previous guidance of 96 cents per share. The company is currently trading at a premium valuation, but we feel that the strengths detailed above justify the higher price at this time.

Our quantitative rating, which can be viewed for any stock through our stock screener stock rating screener, is based on a variety of historical fundamental and pricing data and represents our opinion of a stock's risk-adjusted performance relative to other stocks. However, the rating does not incorporate all of the factors that can alter a stock's performance. For example, it doesn't always factor in recent corporate or industry events that could affect the stock price, nor does it include recent technology developments and competitive dynamics that may affect the company.For those reasons, we believe that a rating alone cannot tell the whole story and that it should be part of an investor's overall research.