My Dream Stock Strategy

One of my favorite companies is coming due for another two-for- one stock split. VCA Antech, Inc. (NASDAQ/WOOF) has been a great performing stock. If you have the chance, pull up a five-year stock chart on this company and you’ll discover how consistent a performer it’s been.

In my previous column, I wrote briefly about diversification in an equity portfolio, having to do with the kinds of businesses an investor might own. Specifically, I think it can really pay to own less exciting, boring businesses, commensurate with a few high flyers.

In my mind, VCA Antech is (or was) an investor’s dream stock. It isn’t a high flyer, but it is a consistent moneymaker that just keeps ticking higher in price. The stock split two-for-one in August of 2004 and I think it would be a real help if it did so again.

Several years ago, I made a decision to look for stocks that belonged to what I call an investment theme. Having this guideline really helped me focus on identifying interesting investment opportunities in industries that were attractive to institutional investors. I always ask myself, would an institutional investor be interested in owning the particular business in question?

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VCA Antech is an animal hospital consolidator that also operates its own diagnostic laboratories that service smaller, independent animal hospitals. What a great business to be in and the company is really smart to be operating in both segments of the pet care business. The company’s laboratory business is also a great way for management to identify new animal hospitals it might want to acquire.

Although I haven’t found very many great investment opportunities as part of my pet care investment theme, I always remain on the lookout. VCA Antech has proven itself to be the best of the best in the industry. Like the alternative energy investment theme, the animal health business offers great long-term fundamentals. Add in the fact that it’s a very stable and recession- resistant industry, and you’ve got the makings of significant institutional investor participation.