Each business day, TheStreet.com Ratings compiles a list of the top five stocks in five categories -- fast-growth, all-around value, large-cap, mid-cap and small-cap. 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. Balchem ( BCPC) develops, manufactures, and markets specialty performance ingredients and products for the food, feed, and mechanical sterilization industries. Balchem produces choline products for both human and animal consumption. Choline, a vitamin-B complex, plays a vital role in the metabolism of fat and the building and maintaining of cell structures. Our buy rating for Balchem hasn't changed since June 2003. The company again reported record quarterly results in net sales for the second quarter of fiscal 2008, achieving a 41.8% increase year over year due to both organic and acquisition growth. Balchem also reported record net earnings, which increased 16.2% when compared with the second quarter of fiscal 2007. As a result, the company's net earnings per diluted common share increased 13.6% to 25 cents per share from 22 cents per share in the second quarter of fiscal 2007. Additionally, Balchem reported that its balance sheet ratios and cash flow continued to be strong in the second quarter.
Management was pleased with the company's record results in the second quarter despite a difficult business environment. The company has worked to increase its global presence, and overseas demand has helped offset the challenges of the U.S. market. Balchem expects rising raw material costs to continue affecting its financial results in the near term, but management stated that appropriate steps would be taken to minimize the impact on operating margins and cash flow. Bear in mind, however, that global economic issues could still affect the company's results. American Ecology ( ECOL) is one of the nation's oldest providers of radioactive, hazardous and industrial waste management services. The company's customers are commercial and government entities, such as nuclear power plants, medical and academic institutions, steel mills, refineries and chemical production facilities. We have rated American Ecology a buy since October 2005. The company reported record operating results for the second quarter of fiscal 2008, as operating income rose 20% year over year to $9.8 million. Net income also climbed 20%, reaching $6.1 million compared with $5.1 million in the same quarter one year prior, due to strong growth in disposal service revenue as the Idaho, Nevada and Texas waste facilities increased the amount of waste disposed by 18% year-over-year. However, lower transportation revenue partially offset the increase in disposal service revenue. American Ecology also reported a 17% increase in gross profit for the second quarter, and the company had no debt at quarter end. In addition, the company declared a quarterly dividend of 18 cents per common share, which was a 20% increase from the prior-quarterly dividend of 15 cents per common share.
Looking ahead, the company announced that it expects to reach or possibly surpass its previously announced fiscal 2008 earnings guidance of $1.17 to $1.23 per diluted share. Management cautioned that the company will require a strong second half contribution from the thermal desorption recycling service that was initiated in late June, along with solid even business results if it is to exceed its guidance range. Airgas ( ARG) distributes industrial, medical and specialty gases (delivered in packaged or cylinder form) and welding, safety and related products (hardgoods). Airgas is the largest producer of nitrous oxide in the U.S., a producer and supplier of dry ice and a supplier of liquid carbon dioxide in the southeastern U.S. We have rated Airgas a buy since May 2006 based on several positive investment measures, such as the company's robust revenue growth, solid stock price performance, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income and reasonable valuation levels. On July 23, the company reported that its net earnings in the first quarter of fiscal year 2009 surged 33.2%, driven by acquisition and organic growth in its key end-markets. Net income rose to $68.88 million, or 81 cents per share, in the quarter from $51.72 million, or 63 cents per share, in the same quarter last year. During the first quarter, revenue ascended 22.0% to $1.12 billion from $915.10 million a year ago, helped by a 15.0% contribution from acquisitions, and 7.0% growth in same-store sales. ARG's strategic product categories, which contribute 40.0% of total revenue, grew 10.0% organically. Segment-wise, revenue from gas and rent rose 21.1% to $656.91 million from $542.25 million; while revenue from hardgoods increased 23.3% to $459.79 million from $372.85 million in prior-year's quarter. During the quarter under review, Airgas completed the acquisition of the packaged gas operations of Linde Gas USA LLC for $310.00 million. As per the deal, the acquisition involved 130 locations, including branches, warehouses, packaged gas fill plants, and other operations involved in distributing packaged industrial and specialty gases and related equipment.
Looking ahead to the second quarter of fiscal year 2009, Airgas anticipates its EPS to range from 82 cents to 84 cents a share. For the full fiscal year 2009, the company raised the lower end of its EPS forecast to a range of $3.30 to $3.40 per share from its previous guidance of $3.24 to $3.40 per share. While the company has a high leverage level, we feel its strengths outweigh the fact that it has had generally poor debt management on most measures that we evaluated. BlackRock ( BLK) is a publicly owned global investment management firm. Its products span a spectrum of fixed income, cash management, equity, and alternative investment separate accounts and mutual funds. BlackRock has been rated a buy since December 2005. For the second quarter of fiscal 2008, the company reported that its earnings increased 23.3% year over year, propelled by strong organic growth in domestic and international assests under management, or AUM. BlackRock's net income advanced to $274.06 million from $222.24 million in the same quarter of fiscal 2007. Revenue swelled 26.4%, driven by impressive AUM growth, a diversified client base, and the success of the BlackRock Solutions investment system. Additionally, earnings per share rose 21.3% when compared with the prior-year quarter. Management was pleased with its strong second quarter results, especially in the face of the difficulties facing the industry. BlackRock is working with its clients to pursue the investment opportunities that it sees despite highly unstable market conditions and believes that, while it will not be immune to the effects of the current economy, its strengths will help differentiate it from other firms. 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.
Amedisys ( AMED) provides home health and hospice services in the southern and southeastern U.S. The company provides a wide variety of health care services, including skilled monitoring by registered nurses, occupational and physical therapy, assessments and patient education. We have rated Amedisys a buy since January 2005. On July 29, the company reported record financial results for the second quarter of fiscal 2008. Net earnings for the quarter surged 35.6% year-over-year due to coverage expansion from the buyout of TLC Healthcare Services. Net income increased to $20.38 million from $14.92 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2007. Diluted earnings per share rose 43.9% year over year to 82 cents per share. Helped by acquisition revenue, an increase in re-certifications, growth in average revenue per episode, and a rise in admissions, the company's net services revenue climbed 84.5% to $312.67 million. Additionally, the number of home health agencies increased to 454 from 296, while hospice agencies rose to 44 from 17 in the prior-year's quarter. During the second quarter, Amedisys acquired five home health locations from Health Management Associates, which should add around $4.00 million to its annualized revenue. Management announced that it was pleased with its second quarter results and the progress of the post-acquisition integration of TLC. Looking ahead to full year 2008, Amedisys included the anticipated impact of recent acquisitions in raising its net service revenue guidance to a range of $1.10 billion to $1.15 billion. The company also raised its EPS guidance to a range of $3.00 to $3.10 per share from the previous guidance of $2.70 to $2.80 per share. Bear in mind, however, that the company's revenue and earnings could be affected by any adverse changes in Medicare rates and reimbursement methodologies or any challenges related to the integrations of recent acquisitions. 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.