STOCK PICKS: Top Five Fast-Growth Stocks for Oct. 13

Each 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 -- 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 more than 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.

Alcon ( ACL) is a research-and-development-driven global medical specialty company focused on eye care. Alcon has been rated a buy since September 2004. Our rating is based on the company's solid revenue growth, strong sales growth from its key products, and increasing earnings. A healthy cash position, new product launches, and regulatory approvals further support the rating.

For the second quarter of fiscal 2008, Alcon reported that its net earnings rose 26.3% year over year to $566.4 million. The increased earnings combined with strong volume growth to boost total sales by 17.9%, from $1.47 billion in the second quarter of fiscal 2007 to $1.74 billion in the most recent quarter. Gross profit margin improved to 78.63% from $78.42%, while operating margin advanced 75 basis points to 37.21%. In addition, Alcon announced that it would build a fully functional pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Singapore by 2012 in order to take advantage of growing demand in Asia. The company also received Food and Drug Administration approval for its Patanase nasal spray, which is used in the treatment of symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis.

Looking ahead to full year 2008, the company increased its sales guidance to a range of $6,460 million to $6,510 million, primarily due to a currency environment that remains more favorable than anticipated. The company also increased its guidance for diluted earnings per share to a range of $6.48 to $6.54. It is important to remember, however, that any regulatory denial of the company's new product developments and market penetrations could hamper its future revenue growth. In addition, the company's weak leverage level and disappointing returns on assets and equity may be a threat to its future rating.

ManTech International ( MANT) provides technologies and solutions for mission-critical national security programs for the intelligence community, the space community, and various departments and agencies of the U.S. federal government. ManTech has been rated a buy since March 2005. Our rating is based on strengths such as the company's robust revenue growth, largely solid financial position, and record of EPS growth.

For the second quarter of fiscal 2008, revenue rose by 33.3% year-over-year. This increase was primarily the result of a business strategy focused on high-end defense and intelligence markets supporting U.S. national security. Revenue growth appears to have helped boost earnings per share, which improved 40.9% when compared with the same quarter a year ago. The EPS increase from 44 cents to 62 cents represents the continuation of a pattern of positive EPS growth demonstrated by ManTech over the past two years, a trend which we feel should continue. Net income also increased in the second quarter, rising 45.0% from $15.1 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2007 to $21.90 million in the most recent quarter. ManTech's low debt-to-equity ratio of 0.16 and quick ratio of 1.30 illustrate the company's successful management of debt levels and avoid short-term cash problems.

Management announced that it is focused on gaining additional new business opportunities, such as a recent U.S. Navy award, for the remainder of fiscal 2008, along with continuing to strive for organic growth in fiscal 2009. For the third quarter of fiscal 2008, the company announced revenue guidance of 23% to 27%, while full-year fiscal 2008 guidance anticipates 27% to 30% growth in revenue. While the company shows low profit margins, we feel that its strengths outweigh any weaknesses. In addition, we believe that ManTech's stock should continue to move higher, despite having already enjoyed a very nice gain of 53.20% over the past year.

Amedisys ( AMED) provides home health and hospice services in the Southern and Southeastern U.S. 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 $0.82 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 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.

FTI Consulting ( FCN) provides consulting services to organizations confronting legal, financial, and reputational issues. FTI Consulting has been rated a buy since May 2004. Our recommendation is based on the company's strong revenue growth, expanding operating margin, and increasing bottom-line. The company's solid cash position and notable returns also strengthen its position.

For the second quarter of fiscal 2008, FTI reported that its revenue grew 40.9% year-over-year, driven by strong segmental performance. EPS also improved, rising from 53 cents in the second quarter of fiscal 2007 to 66 cents in the most recent quarter. The company's cash position improved during the quarter, as reflected by a $30.26 million surge in cash and cash equivalents. Return on assets and return on equity also expanded, improving 220 and 185 basis points, respectively. Operating margin improved 169 basis points when compared with the same quarter a year ago, rising to 19.92%. In addition, the company recently completed the acquisition of Attenex Corporation and Kinesis Marketing.

Looking forward, the company reaffirmed its full fiscal year EPS guidance for a range of $2.50 to $2.63 per share on revenue of $1.30 billion to $1.38 billion. However, the company's deteriorating gross profit margin, failure to retain and hire qualified professionals, and lower merger and acquisition activities are potential risks to consider. These challenges, along with the unfavorable change in economic conditions, could restrict future profitability.

MWI Veterinary Supply ( MWIV) is a distributor of animal health products to veterinarians across the U.S. MWI has been rated a buy since April 2008 on the basis of its revenue growth, largely solid financial position, notable return on equity, and other strengths.

For the third quarter of fiscal 2008, the company reported that its revenue rose 13.3% year over year. This growth appears to have trickled down to MWI's bottom line, helping boost EPS by 25.7% when compared to the same quarter last year. Net income also improved, rising 27.2% from $4.26 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2007 to $5.42 million in the most recent quarter. MWI has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0, implying that there has been very successful management of debt levels. In addition, a quick ratio of 1.01 indicates that the company is able to avoid short-term cash problems.

Management announced that it was pleased with a strong third quarter and that the acquisition of AAHA MarketLink was an important step in building the company's business. MWI updated its previous estimates for full-year fiscal 2008. It now anticipates revenue growth of approximately 17.0% year over year, along with diluted earnings per share of approximately $1.62.

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.

This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.com Ratings.

More from Investing

When Is It 'Worth It' to Work With a Financial Advisor?

When Is It 'Worth It' to Work With a Financial Advisor?

Amazon, Microsoft and Google Face Backlash over ICE, Military Deals

Amazon, Microsoft and Google Face Backlash over ICE, Military Deals

3 Great Stock Market Sectors Millennials Should Invest In

3 Great Stock Market Sectors Millennials Should Invest In

Why Millennials Are Ditching Stocks for ETFs

Why Millennials Are Ditching Stocks for ETFs

Trump's 'Space Force' Could Launch a $1 Trillion Industry, Morgan Stanley Says

Trump's 'Space Force' Could Launch a $1 Trillion Industry, Morgan Stanley Says