When Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) went public in 1986 during the technology boom, it had revenue worth $55 million. By the end of the decade, Oracle had transformed into a technology behemoth, growing its revenue tenfold as its first-mover database software disrupted business computing. Oracle’s journey had just begun: Today, its annual revenue has crossed $35 billion.
Oracle’s confidence in its products, innovative leadership, and one-step-ahead-of-the-competition thinking was pivotal in bringing the company where it is today. Few companies are as visionary, but it’s not impossible to find Oracle-like stocks even today if you focus on disruptive technologies, future trends, or inherent competitive advantages that could upend existing players. We asked three of our contributors to each name a company that they believe look just like Oracle in 1986. Here’s why they picked Box (NYSE:BOX), Celldex Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CLDX), and Aphria (NASDAQOTH:APHQF).
This beaten-down biotech could shock the world
George Budwell (Celldex Therapeutics): The small-cap cancer company Celldex Therapeutics could perhaps follow in Oracle's giant footsteps. After all, the company is still reeling from the late-stage miss for its brain cancer vaccine Rintega last year. So much so that investors have more or less completely disregarded the company's other two value drivers: glembatumumab vedotin (glemba) for triple negative breast cancer patients who over-express a protein called gpNMB, and the immune-boosting drug varlilumab that's being assessed across a diversity of solid tumors in combination with Bristol-Myers Squibb's checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo.
Case in point: Celldex's shares are only trading at 1.7 times the company's last stated cash position -- despite having two promising cancer drugs in numerous ongoing clinical trials.
Where could Celldex's shares be in, say, five years from now? If glemba strikes gold in its ongoing mid-stage trial and goes on to warrant an accelerated regulatory filing, this niche cancer drug could rapidly generate upwards of $400 million in sales. So, even under a scenario where the market only assigns Celldex a price-to-sales ratio of, say, 3, the company's shares would still be trading somewhere along the lines of 400% higher than where they are today. And that's not accounting for any additional licensing or royalty payments stemming from varlilumab.
Of course, this rosy valuation scenario is predicated on glemba transforming into a commercial-stage product, and that's certainly not a sure thing with any experimental cancer drug -- make sure that your risk tolerance is high before considering purchasing stock. But then again, Oracle was also anything but a safe bet way back in 1986, when most onlookers thought the tech company was headed for the dust bin of history.
To imitate one software company's success, look for another software company
Rich Smith (Box): In 1986, the year Oracle had its IPO, the company reported "record" revenues of $55.4 million. Four years later, the farthest-back-reaching data on S&P Global Market Intelligence reveals an almost unrecognizable company reporting revenues of $916.4 million in 1990.
That works out to a 16-fold increase in revenue in just four years' time. Or, if you prefer your data annually, Oracle more than doubled its sales year over year, four years in a row. Personally, I don't know a lot of stocks that have managed anything similar to what Oracle did circa 1986, but I do know one: Box.
According to data from finviz.com, Box (not to be confused with privately-held Dropbox) has grown its sales at an average of 80% annually over the last five years. The company is not yet profitable (as GAAP defines such things), and most analysts agree the company probably won't turn GAAP-positive any time before 2021 at the earliest. That said, Box recently emerged into cash profitability, with free cash flow tipping the scales at $6.8 million over the past 12 months.
Earlier this month, Box delivered an analyst-thumping earnings beat, exceeding expectations for both sales and earnings -- and vaulting the company into positive free cash flow territory. And in that report, CFO Dylan Smith doubled down on his promise to grow revenues at Box to $1 billion -- about 150% more revenues than it reported last year.
I don't know for certain that 31 years from now, we'll be scanning the stock markets for stocks that "look just like Box did back in 2017." But if Box succeeds in hitting the goal its CFO has set for it, and maintains and continues to grow its free cash flow as well, I think there's at least a chance that we will be.
Marijuana stock, anyone? Then this is it.
Neha Chamaria (Aphria): If there’s one-red hot industry right now that doesn’t fall under the purview of technology, it’s marijuana. Pot stocks have been on fire as sales of legal marijuana in the U.S. shot up double-digits last year as more and more states legalize marijuana. Nonetheless, the industry still faces several hurdles, but one stock that stands out is Canada-based Aphria.
Having recently listed itself on the Canadian stock exchange, Aphria is standing pretty much where Oracle was in 1986. The only difference is that while Oracle aimed to disrupt the software industry with a never-before product, Aphria already faces stiff competition. But that’s where things get interesting: Aphria is competitively well positioned, and the cannabis market could be big enough to make room for all.
Unlike most pot stocks, Aphria is already profitable, having reported its fifth quarterly profit this past April and earning around CA$8 million in the trailing 12 months. The other strong point about Aphria is its focus on organic growth: The company is on track to more than triple its greenhouse capacity to one million square feet by the middle of next year via a fully-funded program. To top that, Aphria is a debt-free company that generated positive operating cash flow during the trailing 12 months.
Aphria’s biggest growth opportunity, of course, would be if Canada legalizes recreational pot, which isn’t a far-fetched dream anymore given Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s support. If the Canadian federal government legalizes recreational marijuana within the next one year, as planned, the industry could face a severe supply crunch. For Aphria, that would mean a world of opportunities to mint money, which could send its shares the Oracle way. Of course, there are risks associated with this industry and stock, so investors need to keep a weather eye if they choose to invest.
George Budwell has no position in any stocks mentioned. Neha Chamaria has no position in any stocks mentioned. Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Oracle. The Motley Fool recommends Celldex Therapeutics. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.