2 Stocks That Just Raised the Bar

Offering earnings guidance above analyst expectations is obviously a bullish sign, as over time earnings growth follows sales growth. And when a company predicts greater sales or profits, we expect its stock price to soon follow.

Sometimes things don't work out as planned, though, so we'll pair up the brighter outlook with the sentiments of the 180,000-member Motley Fool CAPS community. If the best and brightest stock pickers think a company's long-term potential is outstanding, coupled with the company's own improved sentiment, maybe investors should take notice.

Here are two stocks that recently raised guidance.

Stock

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Prior or Consensus Estimate

Current Guidance

Period

ExactTarget (NYSE: ET  ) ** ($0.39) ($0.29 - $0.27) FY12 EPS
SodaStream (Nasdaq: SODA  ) ** Net profits up 42% Net profits up 50% FY12

Don't blindly buy into their heady outlook -- you still need to do some research. Use the announcement as a jumping-off point for additional research.

Going mobile
Like Nigerian credit card scams, direct marketing works despite complaints, or else why would it persist? We might bemoan our email boxes filling up with ads for the latest mail-order drug, but someone's responding and sending money.

Indeed, the Direct Marketing Association says email marketing offers businesses the best return on their money of any marketing channel, returning an estimated $40.56 for every dollar spent in 2011. And it's not slowing down. Forrester Research says email marketing will grow 10% annually in the U.S., hitting $2.5 billion by 2016!

No wonder email marketing specialist ExactTarget tapped the public markets in a March IPO that raised $162 million. Spam is a huge growth industry! Rival Constant Contact has seen its revenues grow at a better-than-40% annual compounded rate over the last five years yet it's not always a profitable business. Constant Contact only turned profitable in 2010 and ExactTarget has lost money in three of the last five years.

Its most recent quarterly report showed that while revenues jumped 45% from the year-ago period as international revenues more than doubled, it posted wider losses (even though they were narrower on a per-share basis). That's a trend it expects to continue as it says it expects full-year sales to come in between $270 million and $273 million, a 32% increase over 2011.

CAPS All-Star ta2122 thinks ExactTarget's stock will underperform the markets

This is a company that provides spam to people. Do people like spam? No. Is it evident in their financials? Yes, zero earnings.

Tell us on the ExactTarget CAPS page if you think a spammer can succeed, then add the stock to your watchlist to see who else might respond to the call.

Its cup overfloweth
I wouldn't put homemade-soda maven SodaStream in the same category as spammers, but I'm not enamored of its business model. I've criticized the lack of a competitive moat, distribution, and cost compared to buying Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) or Pepsi (NYSE: PEP  ) . While my Foolish colleague Rick Munarriz says SodaStream would be a huge company if it could snare just 1% of Coke's valuation, that seems too much like penny stocks trying to latch onto being the next Wal-Mart or Microsoft. They're just not playing in the same league.

However, I will credit Rick with convincing me the soda jerk isn't a fad, but rather a niche product, which means it could have some legs. While there's a fine line to walk between the two camps, it's notable that for two quarters running now SodaStream has been raising guidance. Consumables are leading the way to growth and account for 60% of revenues. 

The risk here is that like Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR  ) , which is losing key patent protection on its machines and pods, others may move in on the soda flavors if the profits look rich enough. Worries of such an inflow of competitors has absolutely crushed Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and could be a dark cloud hanging over SodaStream in the future.

SodaStream's operating and net margins have been improving at a healthy clip, but that's not enough to persuade me to change my underperform rating on CAPS, though the new (limited) distribution agreement with Wal-Mart ought to help it gain a lot more adherents. I just wonder if the pact with the devil will mean those rising margins will soon turn tail.

Tell me on the SodaStream CAPS page or in the comments section below if you think it gave up some points to get much-needed growth, then add the soda machine maker to the Fool's free portfolio tracker to see what bubbles up

Raise your sights
These stocks may have raised expectations, but there's a new technological revolution with even wider implications than before and The Motley Fool has discovered three companies ready to capitalize on the boom. Read the free report The Future is Made in America to find out who these winners are, but hurry because it's available only for a limited time.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey holds no position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of PepsiCo, SodaStream International, Coca-Cola, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, SodaStream International, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft; creating a diagonal call position in PepsiCo and Wal-Mart Stores; and creating a lurking gator position in Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. 

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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