Since these companies aren't making front-page news (yet), they could be bargains worth adding to your portfolio.
The biggest, baddest telecom stock you've never heard of
Anders Bylund (Orange): France-based telecom giant Orange SA runs a multinational network of wired and wireless telecommunications services. The company serves 263 million subscribers across 29 countries, including high-growth developing markets such as Egypt and the Middle East.
By comparison, American peer Verizon serves just 142 million subscribers altogether. AT&T gets closer with a grand total of 210 million connections, but the count drops to 176 million if you back out Ma Bell's DirecTV satellite TV customers. Either way, Orange stands head and shoulders above its American counterparts in terms of business scale and customer reach.
But how often do you think about this global telecom giant?
Popular financial sites show a mere trickle of news about Orange, often nothing more than the company's own press releases for monthlong periods. The same sites show a mere handful of Wall Street analysts covering the stock -- or none at all. American investors simply don't see this company and stock very often, even though it trades directly on the Big Board.
For those willing to dive a bit deeper, Orange would be well worth a second look.
Analyst-tracking services that include European analyst firms in their ratings polls show 23 buy ratings and seven holds these days, versus no sell recommendations. In our Motley Fool CAPS system, 709 investors like you and me have rated Orange, with 96% of them giving the stock a thumbs-up rating.
Orange offers a generous dividend policy, ambitious international growth plans, and deep-discount valuation ratios. I can't say for sure that Wall Street is actively trying to hide Orange from American investors, but it's the closest thing to a secret weapon you'll find in my own real-world investment portfolio.
This behind-the-scenes company is delivering massive growth
Todd Campbell (Shopify): As Anders points out, stocks with headquarters outside the U.S. often fly under the radar, and that can present a great opportunity for investors savvy enough to find them.
One company that I think more investors should be aware of is Shopify, a Canadian provider of software solutions to small and midsize retailers. It seamlessly services brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers with a suite of solutions that help them win customers, manage inventory, and process payments, and its sales growth is downright inspiring. The number of merchants relying on its system jumped to over 375,000 in the fourth quarter from 243,000 a year ago, and as a result, sales grew 86% year over year to $130 million in the quarter.
What I really like about this company is that its platform is highly scalable, and its business model has the potential to be very shareholder-friendly.
Merchants pay a monthly subscription fee that ranges from $29 to $299, and those subscriptions provide a nice, steady source of recurring revenue, but processing merchant orders could be the big gravy train. Thanks to more merchants using its solutions -- and a healthy economy -- the dollar value of orders it processes grew 94% year over year to $5.5 billion in the fourth quarter alone, and $2.2 billion of that volume was processed on its Shopify Payments service, up 120% from Q4 2015.
As merchandise volume on its platform expands, so too will revenue, and right now, there's no evidence of momentum slowing. In fact, management thinks it can deliver sales of at least $580 million this year, and if it can deliver, it will represent yet another big year of growth for the company.
Admittedly, the big black mark on this stock is that the company is still losing money. However, online retail sales still make up only a small percentage of total retail volume, and rapid growth could get this company into the black as soon as next year.
The best green-energy stock you've never heard of
Jason Hall (Vestas Wind Systems): With a market capitalization of more than $17 billion, wind turbine manufacturer, installer, and servicer Vestas Wind Systems isn't small at all, and it's one of the biggest renewable-energy companies in the world.
But there's a good chance a lot of people reading this either haven't heard of it or don't know very much about it at all. And it may not be fair to say that Wall Street wants to keep it a secret, since it's based in Sweden, but there aren't any major U.S.-based analysts providing coverage of the company, despite the fact that it does hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. sales every year.
But investors would do well to pay close attention. In coming decades, a growing global middle class is going to require a lot more electricity generation, and renewables such as wind are expected to produce a large amount of new electricity. Vestas, already a global leader in the industry, is positioned to profit from this trend.
Vestas is pretty cheap right now, too, trading at less than 17 times last year's earnings. That's significantly below the nearly 27 times earnings you'd pay for the S&P 500. If you're looking to buy an under-the-radar leader in a wonderful growth industry, Vestas is worth a close look.