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3 Growth Stocks for Ambitious Investors

By Rich Duprey, Demitri Kalogeropoulos, and Brian Feroldi - Updated Jun 12, 2017 at 10:44AM

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Here's why Dexcom, Autodesk, and Vista Outdoor could outperform.

If you've got big, bold plans for your portfolio, then stocks that also exhibit such ambition can help you achieve them. It's not necessary to delve into penny stocks or other such risky endeavors -- just choose companies that possess the right qualities.

We asked three top Motley Fool contributors to identify a stock that an ambitious investor might appreciate, and they came up with Dexcom (DXCM 5.42%), Autodesk (ADSK 3.75%), and Vista Outdoor (VSTO 2.48%). Read on to find out why these shares hold such promise.

Lab technician working with solutions

Image source: Getty Images.

A diabetes darling

Brian Feroldi (Dexcom): The American Diabetes Association estimates that more than 29 million Americans have diabetes and another 86 million are at risk of developing the disease. Given the prevalence, perhaps it isn't a big surprise to learn that dozens of companies have developed products aimed at treating this condition. One of my favorites is Dexcom, a leading provider of continuous glucose monitors. Dexcom's stock has been a Wall Street favorite for years as demand for the company's product continuous to soar.

So what is a continuous glucose monitor? Traditionally, if a person with diabetes wanted to know what their blood sugar level was, they would have to prick their finger and apply a drop of blood to a meter. While this data was useful, it was also burdensome to gather. In addition, the number didn't tell the user anything about which direction their blood sugar was heading.

Dexcom's solution to this problem was to insert a small sensor under the skin that continuously measured glucose levels. Those readings would then be constantly uploaded to a monitor, which provided people with diabetes with a real-time view of their glucose levels. What's more, Dexcom's sensors need to be changed out every few days, which provides the company with a recurring revenue stream.

Since the product's launch, the diabetes community has welcomed Dexcom's device with open arms. Better yet, Dexcom's razor-and-blade business model has allowed its top line to soar, taking long-term shareholders on a very profitable ride.

DXCM Revenue (TTM) Chart

DXCM Revenue (TTM) data by YCharts.

While Dexcom's growth is impressive, the company's system is currently being used by about 200,000 patients. That number is still quite small when compared to the 29 million Americans with the disease. 

The only knock against Dexcom is that Wall Street values its stock at nearly 10 times sales. While that's expensive, if you count yourself as an ambitious investor, I certainly wouldn't fault you for taking a small position in Dexcom today.

Integrated CAD/CAM features in Autodesk's software

Image source: Autodesk.

Picture these profits

Demitri Kalogeropoulos (Autodesk): Autodesk might not look like a growth stock given that both its top and bottom lines are heading in the wrong direction right now. The design software specialist's sales fell slightly in 2015 before diving 19% last year. Its annual losses ballooned to $582 million from $330 million over the same time.

Both of those figures were heavily impacted by Autodesk's choice to abandon its one-time purchase model and replace it with subscription offerings. Yet while these new cloud-based purchases carry much smaller initial contract prices, they make up for that weakness by delivering higher-margin recurring revenue.

The business model shift has made subscriber figures the key number to watch lately. And by that metric, Autodesk is doing a great job. The company grew its customer base by 21% last year and the solid momentum carried on into its fiscal first quarter on the strength of new cloud-based offerings that helped subscription plan recurring revenue double to $692 million.

Ambitious investors should consider investing in this business ahead of what could be a significant operating rebound. Management is targeting a 20% subscription gain this year as recurring revenue expands by as much as 26% to account for a growing proportion of the total sales base. Yes, sales and profits are both likely to show just minor improvements over last year, but surging subscription sales are laying the groundwork for much better growth down the road.

Vista Outdoor's Federal Premium brand of ammunition

Image source: Vista Outdoor.

Ready to shoot out the lights

Rich Duprey (Vista Outdoor): Although its stock sits nearly 60% below its 52-week high, an ambitious investor might just find Vista Outdoor a company to train their sights on. The shooting sports and outdoor gear retailer has been hit by twin forces that it had not prepared for: the election of Donald Trump as president and a wave of retail bankruptcies.

The outcome of the presidential election surprised most everyone and sucked the wind out of the sails of the gun industry. In part driven by the fear of greater gun control legislation getting introduced, gun sales had soared in recent years, but the election of a purported gun-friendly president and Congress helped deflate such worries. Vista called it an "unprecedented" drop in demand.

At the same time, the bankruptcy of sporting goods retailers like Sports Authority and Gander Mountain hurt sales of recreational outdoors gear, as the stores were big sellers of its products. In Vista's most recent earnings report, it said a write-off of $17 million worth of receivables from a bankrupt retail customer lopped off $0.18 from Vista's per-share earnings. That was likely Gander Mountain, as its March bankruptcy filing listed it as owing Vista nearly $15.2 million.

But the gun market is booming and the FBI just reported the month of May was its busiest May ever for background checks of potential gun buyers, with some 1.9 million investigations conducted. All year long it has shown the big drop off in demand following the election was more of a one-off event than a trend. Vista still expects it to take time for demand to recover to where it was, but everything points to greater growth again.

While the retail landscape remains dicey, Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS 3.94%) scooped up a bunch of Gander Mountain stores and the retailer's new owner Camping World has said it is rebranding the chain as Gander Outdoor. Guns won't be quite as prominent as they were previously, but it's a hopeful sign Vista will have a new outlet once more.

Trading at just 13 times next year's estimated earnings and a fraction of its sales, Vista Outdoor's depressed stock appears ripe to grow. An investor willing to bide his time during some likely short-term turbulence could enjoy some ambitious returns in the future.

Brian Feroldi has no position in any stocks mentioned. Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has no position in any stocks mentioned. Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Camping World Holdings. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Autodesk, Inc. Stock Quote
Autodesk, Inc.
$226.32 (3.75%) $8.18
Dick's Sporting Goods, Inc. Stock Quote
Dick's Sporting Goods, Inc.
$101.97 (3.94%) $3.87
DexCom, Inc. Stock Quote
DexCom, Inc.
$89.73 (5.42%) $4.61
Vista Outdoor Inc. Stock Quote
Vista Outdoor Inc.
$30.13 (2.48%) $0.73

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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