MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI) is a perfect example of how high-flying stocks don't make gains in a linear fashion. If you had invested in this stock back in 2011, your position would have vacillated between beating and underperforming the market for five years. That's not too surprising considering the economic recession, political turmoil, and currency deflation that roiled Brazil the past several years -- MercadoLibre's largest market. Yet last year, the company's stock took off like a rocket as revenue grew at an astounding clip in the face of these challenges.
While it's never easy to find stocks that have the potential to gain 286% like MercadoLibre has over the past five years, we asked three of our contributors to take a shot at naming a company with that kind of potential. Here's a look at why they selected JinkoSolar (NYSE:JKS), Shutterfly (NASDAQ:SFLY), and Hi-Crush Partners (NYSE:HCLP).
The biggest bet on solar energy's future
Travis Hoium (JinkoSolar): Investors looking for companies with high growth potential should have their eyes on the solar industry, which has $2.8 trillion of potential over the next two decades. And JinkoSolar is the biggest solar manufacturer in the world, with an expected 8.5 GW to 9.0 GW of shipments this year.
JinkoSolar is also one of the lowest-cost manufacturers in the world, with a reported cost per watt of $0.35, leading to a decent 11.2% gross margin in the first quarter. That's enough to still have $9 million in net income from continuing operations, which is impressive given the massive losses most manufacturers are reporting due to a sharp drop in solar panel prices over the last year.
What could really fuel JinkoSolar is the fact that it isn't weighed down with debt like most large solar manufacturers. It had $881 million in total debt at the end of the first quarter with $249 million in cash on the balance sheet.
As the solar industry grows, JinkoSolar will play a big part in supplying solar panels and other equipment to developers around the world. And while the business isn't highly profitable at the moment, 2017 is a down year for the global solar industry because of changing incentives in China and the U.S., and as demand picks up in 2018 and beyond, we'll likely see more profits -- and the stock could soar as a result.
Rich Duprey (Shutterfly): Digital photo specialist Shutterfly has offered a mixed performance and is in the midst of a restructuring, aiming to develop a more single-minded focus. It's closing down smaller brands like TripPix and FavPix and consolidating others such as Wedding Paper Divas under a new Shutterfly branded service, Shutterfly Wedding. All of its consumer brands will be brought together on a single platform. It's a smart move.
The Shutterfly brand has been performing well where many of the others have not. By concentrating its efforts on that (and the Tiny Prints brand), it can capitalize on the high name recognition Shutterfly possesses without splintering its base. This should also help to reduce costs, since part of the restructuring entailed shedding 13% of its workforce. It also has an effective though much smaller business-facing division that saw revenue jump 19% in the first quarter.
Shutterfly's operations are lumpy, with most of its business occurring in the fourth quarter. Yet it was able to report a narrower-than-expected first-quarter loss back in April and is looking for relative flat to slightly wider losses in the second quarter. For the full year, though, it's expecting profits that are flat to nearly double the $0.45 per share it recorded last year.
Analysts expect Shutterfly to grow earnings 32% annually for the next five years, and with the digital-photo shop trading at just seven times the free cash flow it produces, its stock looks like it has been forgotten in the bargain-basement bin.
An underappreciated aspect of oil and gas
Tyler Crowe (Hi-Crush Partners): It's safe to say that all conventional wisdom about the oil and gas industry has been thrown out the window thanks to shale drilling. We now have a low-cost source of oil that takes a matter of days to go from a fallow field to a productive well. It's changing the way oil is viewed as a global commodity, and it's changing the way investors look at the business as a whole.
One underappreciated thing about this change is how dependent shale has become on frack sand, and that gives frack sand manufacturers like Hi-Crush Partners an opportunity to generate massive gains over the next several quarters.
After testing many different well iterations, producers have found that one way to coax more oil out of the ground is to add more sand to the hydraulic fracturing fluid. That has led sand consumed per well to more than double, and in many cases it has more than tripled. As a result, we are using much more sand for fracking than we did before the oil price crash in 2014, when the total amount of active rigs was more than double what it is today.
What's more, producers like Hi-Crush are scrambling to expand their production capability to meet this growing trend. Management has already invested in a potential new facility right in the heart of the Permian Basin in West Texas.
Hi-Crush's facilities are all pretty much running at full capacity, demand is high, prices for sand are rising, and yet the stock is still toiling at the lows from the crash. Investors who want to get a jump on this growing trend of frack sand should take a serious look at the company today.
Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned. Travis Hoium has no position in any stocks mentioned. Tyler Crowe has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends MercadoLibre. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.