Updated from 12:54 p.m. EDTEach business day, TheStreet.com 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 -- and publishes these lists in the Ratings section of our Web site. This list is 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. BlackRock ( BLK - Get Report), a publicly owned investment manager, has been rated buy since December 2005. Its products include a variety of fixed income, cash management, equity and alternative investment separate accounts and mutual funds. The company is reaping substantial benefits from its September 2006 merger with Merrill Lynch Investment Managers (MLIM) and the October 2007 acquisition of the fund of funds business of Quellos Group, LLC, which have allowed it to become one of the world's largest asset management firms. The beneficial impact of these business combinations is reflected in the firm's cross selling successes, which supported its top line growth throughout fiscal 2007. The company reported robust results for the fiscal year 2007 on January 17th, with assets under management up 21% compared to the end of 2006, standing at $1.36 billion as of the end of the year. Along with the acquisition of the Quellos business, this helped drive revenue growth of 42% for the quarter and 131% for the year. The firm continues to focus on product diversification, and has made efforts to mitigate any damage caused to its results from current turmoil in the credit markets by adopting stricter risk management procedures. Management feels that this focus will enable it to grow despite current challenging market conditions. Our rating is subject to the risk of any unexpected downturn in the securities markets or the economy in general, any deterioration in relative investment performance, and any adverse regulatory developments. Furthermore, slowing trends in the US economy and fluctuations in interest rates could adversely affect the company's performance. Diamond Offshore ( DO - Get Report) engages in the contract drilling of oil and gas wells. The company's fleet of 30 submersibles enables it to offer a range of services in various markets worldwide, including the deep water, harsh environment, and conventional semisubmersible markets. Diamond also owns 13 jack-up rigs, which are mobile, self-elevating drilling platforms equipped with legs that are lowered to the ocean floor until a foundation can be built to support the platform. Finally, Diamond also has one drillship, the Ocean Clipper, located offshore Brazil. We have rated Diamond a buy since June 2005. This rating is supported by the company's good top-line performance and superior shareholder returns. Diamond has reported strong revenue growth due to strong demand for rigs across all geographic regions. Revenue increased 15.3% year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2007, increasing to $666.70 million. Over the past three years, Diamond has shown a significant improvement in its return-on-equity (ROE) due to strong earnings growth. The company reported ROE of 29.42% as of the end of the fourth quarter. Furthermore, the company has a track record of paying regular cash dividends, as well as a recent special dividend of $1.25 per share.
Diamond is expected to post strong growth in the future, benefitting from new drilling contracts. Recently, the company entered into one new contract and extended three existing deepwater drilling contracts with Petrobras (PBR), Brazil's state-owned drilling company. In addition, the company received a two-well contract from Callon Petroleum on November 29, 2007 for its rig, Ocean Victory. Bear in mind, however, that the slowdown in the U.S. economy and weak job data may put pressure on the demand for oil and gas. This could in turn disturb activities related to exploration and production, affecting the number of rigs that are operational in the market and potentially affecting the profitability of the company. Axsys designs and manufactures precision optical solutions (such as thermal imaging cameras, stabilized camera systems, motion control systems, and scanning systems) for use by the U.S. government and high performance commercial markets in aerospace, defense, and other applications. Axsys also distributes precision ball bearings used in a variety of industrial and commercial applications. In the fourth quarter of 2007, the company recorded strong financial performance, with strong demand for both Axsys' traditional business and the recently acquired gyro-stabilized gimbal business helping generate revenues of $47.9 million, compared to $33.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2006. Sales increased 42.0% year-over-year to a record $47.9 million. The company reports that its backlog increased to a record $140.0 million, which is a 21.0% increase compared to the fourth quarter of 2006. This increase was due to strong demand for infrared cameras and lenses, gimbal systems, and military-grade motion control systems. Looking ahead for full-year 2008, management now expects to generate sales in the range of $208 million to $212 million, up from the previously forecast $193 million to $197 million range. Management also expects diluted earnings per share to be in the range of $1.70 to $1.75, up from the previous guidance of $1.57 to $1.60. However, any significant reduction or delay in purchase of the company's products by the U.S. government could have an adverse effect on Axsys' financial performance, as the company derives a significant portion of its revenue from this source. Atwood Oceanics ( ATW) is a Houston-based international drilling contractor, engaging in the offshore drilling and completion of exploratory and developmental oil and gas wells worldwide. The company also provides related support, management, and consulting services. We have rated this company a buy since September 2004, based on its revenue growth, largely solid financial position, earnings per share growth, and solid stock performance. Revenue rose by 48.6% in the fourth quarter of 2007 to $121.6 million, up from $81.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2006. Atwood's debt-to-equity ratio is very low at 0.03, implying that the company has been very successful at managing debt levels. During the past fiscal year, the company increased its bottom line by earning $4.37 versus $2.75 in the prior year. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. Finally, the stock has surged 71.78% over the past year, powered by its strong earnings growth of 128.37%. Regarding the stock's future course, although almost any stock can fall in a broad market decline, Atwood should continue to move higher despite the fact that it has already seen a substantial gain in the past year. Risks to the rating include any pricing fluctuations in the oil and gas industry, the company's ability to secure adequate financing, and governmental regulation and environmental matters. Darling International ( DAR - Get Report) provides rendering, recycling, and recovery solutions to the food industry, processing animal by-products and used cooking oil into meat and bone meal, tallow, and yellow grease. The company also provides grease-trap cleaning services to food service establishments. Darling operates 24 facilities throughout the U.S., as well as a fleet of nearly 640 trucks and tractor-trailers to collect raw materials. Darling markets its finished products worldwide to producers of oleo-chemicals, soaps, pet foods, and livestock feed.
We have rated Darling a buy since January 2007. The company reported on February 27 that its earnings for the fourth quarter of 2007 more than doubled, driven by higher prices for finished product. Net income surged to $14.37 million, or $0.18 per share, from $6.09 million, or $0.07 per share, one year prior. Net sales increased 36.9% year-over-year. Sales growth is attributed to higher finished product prices and the inclusion of the full-year operations resulting from the company's acquisition of National By-Products in May 2006. Looking ahead, the management believes it has significant momentum moving into 2008, but does expect prices for natural gas and diesel fuel to remain volatile in fiscal year 2008. Additional regulations on the use of feed by the Food and Drug Administration could adversely affect the company. Our quantitative rating 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. Know What You Own: Diamond Offshore operates in the oil and gas industry, and some of the other stocks in its field include Nabors Industries ( NBR - Get Report), Noble Corp. ( NE - Get Report) and Transocean ( RIG - Get Report). These stocks were recently trading at $30.67, $46.78 and $131.54, respectively.