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Three Top-of-Mind Stocks

Posted at 10:15 a.m. EDT on Friday, Aug. 24

What do people want out of a CEO, a company and a stock? Let's take three top-of-mind examples: Salesforce.com ( CRM), Sprint ( S) and Hain Celestial ( HAIN).

First, the easiest, Hain. People want to see an earnings beat that's big, a guidance raise that is huge, and signs that commodity pressure and gross margins are not an issue because the customer will pay up for the product. With the quarter announced yesterday you got all of that, especially with the acquisition of Premier Foods, which was accretive to the tune of an immediate 25 cents a share. When your company sells at 9 times EBITDA and the acquired company sells at 5 times EBITDA, it will happen.

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Irwin Simon's Hain, like Whole Foods ( WFM), is riding perhaps the greatest secular investing trend of the next generation: health and wellness in order to fight the toxins that might otherwise give us cancer and other diseases. He is at the forefront. So is Whole Foods.

They go higher.

Next is Sprint. Dan Hesse is shocking people with what he is accomplishing, and when I asked him whether it was the product -- Apple ( AAPL) -- the balance sheet or the service that is responsible for the turn, he said it was a little of all three, but the service stands out because he is recapturing old Nextel customers who would have otherwise been lost, at a rate that is about three times what it was eight months ago.

Sprint's future always hinged on the ability to keep the disastrous Nextel acquisition from wiping it out. If Hesse could do that, Sprint's unlimited plans and Apple phones would take care of the rest. It will take many years for this to play out, but I think the turn is in its infancy, and I like Dan's assurances to me that there are no "Mission Accomplished" signs flying at headquarters.

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