Growth, changes, and development are what drive companies to produce greater profits and reward their shareholders. Finding the best opportunities often starts with identifying companies that fit this model. To provide a starting point for investors, I'll look at four companies that could progress greatly toward rewarding shareholders throughout the next year.
Investors have been afraid to invest in biofuel companies as so many companies have struggled to produce returns for investors. But Solazyme (NASDAQ:TVIA) is taking a different approach to the development of biofuel and stands to take this even further through the rest of the year.
Unlike so many other struggling biofuel manufacturers, Solazyme is eying biofuel but has kept it as a long-term goal rather than an immediate source of revenue. Instead, Solazyme has been focusing on the specialty chemical market and the manufacturing of substitute food oils.
This has a few key advantages over the straight-to-biofuel approach. These specialty oils and chemicals are higher-margin than biofuel, giving Solazyme the ability to make decent profits without having to build out massive volume. The company also doesn't have to overcome the infrastruture issues related to biofuels, since substitutes for food oils don't require new fueling stations for yet-to-be-designed vehicles.
Solazyme is building itself out as a company that can tailor its algae oils to suit the needs of its buyers. Throughout 2014, investors should watch for the company's production facility expansion. In January, Solazyme announced the beginning of production at two of its Iowa facilities, which are expected to "ramp to a nameplate capacity of 20,000 MT/yr within 12-18 months, with targeted potential expansion to 100,000 MT/yr in subsequent years."
Next on the agenda for Solazyme is the opening of its Moema facility in Brazil, where the company expects to further increase capacity by the end of the year. As Solazyme moves toward commercialization of its algae oils, the company is edging out of the biofuel valley of death and into the relative stability of tailored oils. While Solazyme is still expected to be posting negative numbers for the near term, an analyst from Raymond James believes the company could be cash flow-positive by 2015.
The debate over the valuation of Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) is sure to continue, but no matter which side you're on, the Silicon Valley automaker is definitely worth watching in 2014. The company is currently evaluating locations for its "gigafactory," where it will produce the batteries necessary to power its mass production vehicles. Tesla appears to be shopping the factory around to see which location can provide the best mix of incentives and benefits.
Also on tap for 2014 is the expansion of Tesla into the Chinese market. As the company expands from being a niche electric-auto maker, a worldwide presence is important and is leading the opening of new Tesla stores worldwide.
This could also shape up to be a year of legal battles for Tesla, as various states try to block or shut down Tesla's stores under dealer franchise laws. Despite public opinion that's strongly opposed to these laws, this will be a major challenges for Tesla as auto dealer associations continue to pressure state governments.
The ultimate lawsuit investment
You wouldn't know it from looking at their stock prices or market caps, but Fannie Mae (NASDAQOTH:FNMA) and Freddie Mac (NASDAQOTH:FMCC) are extremely profitable. Each government-sponsored enterprise has earned record profits over the past year leading to the full repayment of the original investment by the U.S. government.
But things aren't that simple for Fannie and Freddie investors. A 2012 amendment to the agreement between the Treasury and the conservator has redirected all of the GSEs' profits to the Treasury while not counting them toward reducing the senior preferred stock owned by the Treasury.
If this amendment were declared illegal, Fannie and Freddie shares would have significant value to them and plenty of parties have filed lawsuits against the government over the handling of the amendment. If the plaintiffs win, Fannie and Freddie shares could rise 10 to 15 times according to both my analysis and that of Bill Ackman, manager of Pershing Square which has taken stakes in the common stock of both GSEs. If the plaintiffs lose, it would be difficult to see how the GSE common shares would have any value. So if you're going to follow one series of lawsuits in 2014, make it this one.
Lots of choices
I want to make one thing very clear: I do not intend for this to be a complete list of dynamic opportunities for 2014, rather, I wanted to point out a few of my personal favorites. Between Solazyme, Tesla Motors, and the GSEs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, opportunities to profit from growth, expansion, and structural change exist all over the markets.
Alexander MacLennan owns shares of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Solazyme and Tesla Motors and has options on Solazyme. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com and Tesla Motors and owns shares of Amazon.com, Solazyme, and Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.