NEW YORK (
) -- You get what you pay for, and while the five large cap stocks rated highest by
have single-digit upside potential based on analyst targets, these are relatively low-risk growth plays with increasing revenue and strong balance sheets.
The following five companies have market capitalizations of at least $10 billion and are rated A (equivalent to a Strong Buy) or higher:
5. C H Robinson Worldwide
C H Robinson Worldwide
of Eden Prairie, Minn. provides freight transportation and logistics services and is also involved in wholesale produce distribution and information services. Shares closed at $67.84 Thursday, rising 16% year-to-date.
Net income for the second quarter was $97.2 million, or 59 cents a share, increasing from $84 million, or 51 cents a share, the previous quarter and $92.3 million, or 54 cents a share, a year earlier.
The company's revenue for the second quarter increased 27% year-over-year, although its gross profit margin declined. Air transportation revenue increased 45.5%, while ocean transportation revenue was up 12%. Truck transportation revenue declined slightly.
C H Robinson Worldwide has no long term debt and a quick ratio of 1.72, showing a strong ability to cover short-term cash needs.
The shares trade for 31.1 times earnings, compared to the company's industry group which trades for 23.4 times earnings, according to Thomson Reuters.
Out of 20 analysts covering the company, 11 rate the shares a buy, while 9 recommend holding the shares, according to Thomson Reuters.
4. Ecolab, Inc.
of St. Paul. Minn., provides sanitation products and services to many industries around the world. The shares closed at $50.15 Thursday, returning 13% year-to-date.
Second-quarter earnings attributable to shareholders were $129.3 million, or 54 cents a share, increasing from $95.5 million, or 40 cents a share, in the first quarter and $99.1 million, or 41 cents a share, during the second quarter of 2009. Net sales rose 5% year-over-year.
Stockholders' equity increased 3% over the year that ended June 30. The company's quick ratio was a low 0.80, however Ecolab's strong profits and cash flow mitigate any liquidity concern.
The shares are trading for 24.8 times earnings, while the industry trades lower, at 19.3 times earnings. Over the past five years, Ecolab's peak P/E was 32.4.
Out of 16 analysts covering the company, 11 rate Ecolab a buy, while 5 recommend holding the shares.
3. Nike, Inc.
is the world's largest seller of athletic footwear and athletic apparel. The company is headquartered in Beaverton, Ore. Shares closed at $76.64 Wednesday and were up 17% year-to-date.
Nike's fiscal year ends on May 31. For fiscal 2010, net income was $1.9 billion, or $3.86 a share, increasing from $1.5 billion or $3.03 a share for fiscal 2009. While revenue declined 1% year-over-year, CEO Mark Parker said during the company's second-quarter conference call that the company had "never been more profitable," with a gross margin at a record 46.3%.
As of May 31, Nike had $5.1 billion in cash and short-term investments, up from $3.5 billion a year earlier. Inventories declined 13% year-over year, to $2 billion. Nike had a very strong balance sheet, with debt-to-equity ratio of just 0.05 and a current ratio of 3.3.
The shares were trading for 19.9 times earnings, compared to a P/E of 19.3 for Nike's industry group.
With Nike firing on all cylinders, 12 out of 18 analysts rate the shares a buy, while the remaining six recommend investors hold the shares.
2. Praxair, Inc.
is an international producer and distributor of industrial gasses. The company is headquartered in Danbury, Conn. Shares closed at $88.20 Thursday, returning 12% year-to-date.
The company reported second-quarter net income attributable to common shareholders of $371 million, or $1.19 a share, increasing from $314 million, or $1.01 a share, the previous quarter and $299 million or 96 cents a share a year earlier. Sales increased 18% year-over-year, with improved global demand amid economic recovery, especially in South America and in the company's Asian markets.
Praxair's ratio of debt to equity was 0.48 as of June 30, but debt declined slightly over the past year while net worth increased 18%.
The shares were trading for 20.6 times earnings, while Praxair's industry group was trading slightly higher, at 21.1 times earnings.
Out of 16 analysts covering the company, 12 recommend buying Praxair's shares, while the remaining 4 rate them a hold.
1. McDonald's Corp.
closed at $74.80 Thursday, returning 23% year-to-date.
McDonald's has benefitted from its lineup of improved coffee drinks and the new Frappé, with second-quarter sales increasing 5% year-over-year to $5.9 billion. Net income for the second quarter was $1.3 billion or $1.13 a share, increasing from $1.1 billion, or a dollar a share, the previous quarter and $1.1 billion, or 98 cents a share, a year earlier.
The company's quick ratio was 1.02 as of June 30, and the ratio of debt to equity was 0.45.
Shares were trading for 17 times earnings, versus the industry group, which was trading for 19.4 times earnings.
Among 23 analysts covering the shares, 23 rate McDonald's a buy and the remaining 7 recommend holding the shares.
Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.
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Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.