Growth investors have to take risks to reap big rewards. Fortunately, some stocks have more attractive risk-reward prospects than others. When asked about their picks for solid growth prospects for those willing to accept a bit of downside, these Motley Fool contributors chose Lumber Liquidators (NYSE:LL), FireEye (NASDAQ:FEYE), and IBM (NYSE:IBM). Read on to see what they said and whether these stocks meet your needs for a growth stock.
A broken growth stock trying to get back on track
Jason Hall (Lumber Liquidators): Over the past couple of years, flooring retailer Lumber Liquidators has taken a beating, following allegations that it was selling Chinese-made laminate flooring that was hazardous to people's health. Needless to say, customers stayed away in droves, sending revenue, earnings, and the stock price plummeting:
In addition to the public relations backlash, Lumber Liquidators has also faced a number of legal challenges. The company's efforts to defend itself have required a lot of spending a, adding to the company's woes.
But there have been signs of a recovery. In 2016, both the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and California Air Resources Board (CARB) reached agreements with the company, with the CPSC saying that not a single tested customer's floor required remediation. Since the CPSC agreement in June 2016, Lumber Liquidators' sales have started to recover.
More recently, the company disclosed that it had taken a $18 million charge enormous a future settlement -- a huge step toward putting its biggest ongoing legal issue behind it for good.
There's still few risks. Even with recent sales improvements, the company is spending more cash than it's bringing in. But it does have some measure of safety between cash on hand and its revolving debt, and management says it would have little problem establishing even more liquidity.
Add it all up and Lumber Liquidators is still high-risk but has made huge progress in its turnaround. If you're willing to take on some risk, the rewards could be pretty big within a few years.
You can feel secure about this stock
Tim Brugger (FireEye): Based on last quarter's tepid earnings, upstart data security provider FireEye may not seem like a stock worthy of growth investors' attention. However, despite its miniscule 3% increase in revenue year over year to $173.7 million, there was a lot to like not only for FireEye's past quarter but also its prospects going forward.
As with many of its peers, last year was tougher than expected for FireEye. The result, at least in FireEye's case, was CEO Kevin Mandia instituting a sweeping restructuring initiative that included the loss of hundreds of jobs and bidding farewell to several executives.
Not surprisingly, the type of sweeping changes Mandia instituted raised concerns, but unlike some drastic transitions that don't pay off, FireEye is delivering. Last quarter, FireEye's operating expenses tumbled 29% to $180.8 million. The helped boost operating margins by more than 50% year over year.
Make no mistake, FireEye is still in the red after posting a per-share loss of $0.09 excluding one-time expenses to kick off 2017. But that loss was a fraction of last year's negative $0.47, and that's on top of an improvement in cash flow from operations.
Daring investors have already recognized the value of FireEye's expense management efforts, pushing its stock price up 23% since announcing earnings on May 2. That said, it's not too late for investors in search of relatively aggressive growth. FireEye has proven it's on the right path, and that should continue for years to come.
This blue-chip tech stock sees better times ahead
Dan Caplinger (IBM): The idea of IBM being a daring stock would have been unthinkable just a decade ago, even as it sought new ways to pursue growth. Big Blue has been an industry stalwart for a long time, but few would say that it took much courage to have confidence in the technology giant's future prospects. That has changed recently, however, because IBM has struggled to an unusual extent in trying to produce revenue growth. For 20 straight quarters, the company behind the PC has seen revenue drop from year-earlier levels.
Still, investors have reason to believe that IBM's toughest times might be behind it. Much of the revenue decline in its most recent quarter stemmed from delays in closing services deals, and the company seems optimistic that those sales will eventually be consummated. When that happens, IBM will see a revenue bump, and that might be enough to break the downward streak for the tech giant. In addition, the expected release of IBM's next-generation mainframe later this year should lead to the typical jump in sales from the segment.
So far, investors have been able to count on IBM finding ways to grow its bottom line despite the revenue pressure that the company faces. If IBM can return to top-line growth, then that should set the stage for even better performance going forward.
Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. Jason Hall owns shares of Lumber Liquidators. Tim Brugger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends FireEye and Lumber Liquidators. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.