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3 Growth Stocks for Long-Term Investors

By Neha Chamaria, Rich Duprey, and Keith Noonan – May 20, 2017 at 11:13AM

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Why long-term investors can't go wrong with Middleby, NextEra Energy, and Under Armour.

Growth stocks are typically expected to grow at a faster clip than peers' stocks or the broader market. Their companies generally enjoy a competitive advantages and high earnings growth potential, which is also why such stocks are a great fit for investors who aren't worried about the day-to-day meanderings of the stock market and believe in investing in stocks with a long-term view toward building wealth.

As we Fools strongly believe in the buy-and-hold concept, three of our contributors have picked one growth stock each that they think deserves every long-term investor's attention today: Middleby (MIDD -0.47%), NextEra Energy (NEE -1.23%), and Under Armour (UAA -0.94%) (UA -0.54%). Here's what you need to know about each of these three stocks. 

Get cooking with this oven maker

Rich Duprey (Middleby): "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." That saying could apply to investors when it comes to Middleby. Although at first glance it would seem the commercial-oven maker is simmering along with its stock, having moved 27% higher over the past year and having quadrupled in value over the past five, bubbling beneath the surface is a failed acquisition that's weighing down its entry into the residential market and a weakening in its primary restaurant customers. Yet for investors who have the patience to not peer into the kettle to often to see whether the water's boiling yet, Middleby can be a good long-term investment.

A man sits in an office, back to his desk, hands clasped behind his head, as he looks out the window at a scene of rising stock charts.

Growth stocks can make you money in the long term while you watch. Image source: Getty Images

The oven maker continues to see sales in its residential segment hurt by the 2012 acquisition of Viking, an oven company that had a sterling reputation for years only to allow itself to become beset with quality-control problems that materialized after Middleby bought it. Middleby is still dealing with the recall of 100,000 products, including ovens that would spontaneously ignite. In its just-issued first-quarter earnings report, segment sales fell 6% on a currency-adjusted basis in large part because of the recall.

In the commercial segment, adjusted sales were down almost 3% year over year, which it blamed on timing issues by its largest restaurant customers. The entire dining industry is suffering from a prolonged slump that has now stretched to five straight quarters. The last time it experienced such a contraction was just as the economy was emerging from the financial crisis in 2010. Middleby expects the segment to continue experiencing sluggishness for the immediate future.

Yet net earnings improved to $70.7 million in Middleby's first quarter, or an adjusted $1.26 per share, handily beating analyst expectations of $1.13 per share. The oven maker expects business to improve in the back half of the year, has introduced a new lineup of products, and is looking to the development of new food-processing facilities in emerging markets for future growth.

It also continues on a growth-by-acquisition strategy that, as the Viking episode shows, carries some risk, but as Middleby's longer experience indicates, it's largely able to do successfully. This oven maker remains a stock with good, long-term potential.

Invest in the future of energy

Neha Chamaria (NextEra Energy): I strongly believe long-term investors would do well investing in a utility stock that not only offers stability in terms of earnings and dividends but is also poised to benefit from future energy trends. One of my favorites is NextEra Energy, which is among North America's largest electric-power companies today.

While a highly regulated business should keep volatility in NextEra Energy's top line at bay, the company's intent focus on renewable energy should make way for growth in coming years. You might be surprised to know that NextEra Energy, together with its affiliates, is the world's largest provider of solar and wind energy today and also among the largest nuclear power operators.

A solar-panel array, with three wind turbines in the background against a blue sky.

Image source: Getty Images

The world's gradual shift to cleaner energy sources could open up big growth opportunities for NextEra Energy, which is exactly what long-term investors seek. The company is already growing steadily, having doubled its net profit margin in the past decade to 18% for 2016 and earning double-digit returns on equity all through. The outlook appears bright as well, what with management targeting adjusted EPS growth of 6%-8% through 2020. Investors can expect similar growth in dividends, given NextEra Energy's history of growing its dividends in line with adjusted earnings. With the stock yielding 2.9% currently and trading at a price-to-earnings of less than 17, which is below its five-year as well as industry average, I believe now is a great time for investors to consider NextEra Energy.

A company with big rebound potential

Keith Noonan (Under Armour): Footwear and apparel company Under Armour is going through a serious rough stretch and stands as one of the S&P 500's biggest losers over the last year, but investors with a long-term outlook now have a chance to buy into a company with great growth potential at a discount. Putting the company's 46% drop over the past year in perspective, slowing sales growth, weak domestic performance (year-over-year, American sales slipped 1% last quarter), and reduced revenue and earnings targets explain why the market has soured on the stock. However, there are good reasons to bank on a rebound. 

With roughly 80% of the company's sales coming from the domestic market, Under Armour still has tremendous growth opportunities overseas. Last quarter saw the company's international sales increase 52% year over year, and an expanding global middle class and the increasing popularity of football and basketball in key markets such as China point to big opportunities to expand the company's global footprint. 

Under Armour has built a strong brand backed by a compelling lineup of celebrity partners, and some of the problems that have weighed on performance -- such as softer-than-anticipated demand for its Steph Curry signature shoes, stemming from unpopular design choices -- appear to be short-term hurdles rather than foundation-level problems. Emerging categories such as connected fitness and growth in direct-to-consumer selling are also likely to be momentum drivers.

While the possibility certainly exists that the company and its stock will hit additional bumps in the road, Under Armour has great potential to grow its brand and business around the globe and stands out as a stock that long-term investors should give serious consideration. 

Keith Noonan has no position in any stocks mentioned. Neha Chamaria has no position in any stocks mentioned. Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Middleby, Under Armour (A Shares), and Under Armour (C Shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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