With the market indexes continuing to plow to new heights on seemingly a daily basis, everything just might look like a growth stock. Yet finding companies that still offer investors a good value during the heady days of the second quarter remains the challenge.
We asked three top Motley Fool contributors to identify a stock they believe investors should be watching now, and they came up with BofI Holding (NYSE:AX), Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG), and Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ). Find out why these three growth stocks made the cut.
Short-sellers hate this fast-growing bank, but you don't have to
Brian Feroldi (BofI Holding): BofI Holding is a controversial stock. Bears have accused management of everything from money laundering to forgery over the past few years and as a result have heavily shorted the company's stock. Bulls point out that the company has successfully defended itself from all accusations and that it continues to post terrific results.
No matter which side of this debate you find yourself on, there's no arguing one key fact: BofI's long-term investors (like me) have made out like bandits.
Why has the company's stock performed so well? Investors can thank its ultra-low-cost business model. Unlike traditional banks, BofI doesn't have to pay for the overhead associated with opening brick-and-mortar branches. Instead, customers interact with the company online, which helps keep its operating costs very low -- so low, in fact, that its efficiency ratio recently clocked in at 32%. For perspective, last year U.S. Bancorp -- one of the most profitable and widely respected big banks in the United States -- posted an efficiency ratio of 55%. (Lower is better.)
BofI's low operating costs allow it to price its banking products aggressively while it remains highly profitable. That's why more and more customers who are shopping for banking services are choosing BofI as their provider (again, like me).
While I recognize that BofI is far from a risk-free investment, the company's results continue to show that short-sellers might be barking up the wrong tree. If you feel the same way, then right now could be a great time to consider joining me as a long-term shareholder.
As the burrito turns
Demitri Kalogeropoulos (Chipotle): I've got my eye on Chipotle. The former Wall Street darling finally returned to growth in the first quarter, following a brutal 2016 that saw comparable-store sales plunge by 20% as profitability was cut in half to 13% of sales.
In contrast to that depressing result, the fast-food specialist's key operating metrics turned positive in its fiscal first quarter. Customer traffic jumped even as Chipotle pulled back on promotions. As a result, comps improved by 18%, and restaurant-level operating margin surged. Yes, the company was up against an unusually weak prior-year period characterized by plunging traffic. But the next few quarterly reports should still tell us a lot about whether and how quickly Chipotle will be able to recapture some of its old growth trends.
CEO Steve Ells and his team said back in late April that they see comps rising in the high single digits in 2017 to mark an important step forward from last year's food-safety scare. Chipotle also plans to add as many as 210 new restaurants to its base, compared with 240 in 2016. Those targets could change this quarter in response to the latest operating trends.
The other big question going forward is what level of profitability the company can achieve. After all, it has committed to higher food safety and preparation costs in addition to rising labor expenses. Chipotle's operating margin was climbing toward 20% by late 2015, but that feels like a lifetime ago. In the first quarter, operating margin hovered just barely in positive territory.
I'll drink to that
Rich Duprey (Constellation Brands): Although Constellation Brands pulled back from its recent highs, this leading brewer and vintner is still one to watch and own. Not only does it possess a strong portfolio of beer and wine, but it reportedly is in pursuit of distiller Brown-Forman (NYSE:BF-A)(NYSE:BF-B), the maker of Jack Daniel's whiskey. Yet even without an acquisition -- and Brown-Forman is said to have rebuffed Constellation's overtures -- this is a growth stock for the second quarter.
When it reported its fiscal 2017 results back in April, it credited a 17% increase in beer sales (13% of it organically) as the reason for its record results, calling its beer business "a powerhouse for growth." Today, beer accounts for 55% of total sales, and its purchase of Ballast Point Brewery for $1 billion was a big splash in the craft-beer world that has reset expectations on craft-brewery buyouts.
Constellation also holds a dominant position in the premium wine market, despite having sold off its Canadian wine business, and analysts see it as one potential avenue for the alcoholic-beverage distributor to return value to shareholders without having to pursue an acquisition.
Despite the gains its stock has made, it still trades at just 25 times earnings, about equal to the broad market index, and 20 times next year's estimates. Wall Street also expects it to continue growing earnings at a 16% annual clip over the next five years, suggesting that, while not a discounted stock, it is at worst fairly valued. But with Constellation Brands being in a growth phase and tapping into the premium ends of two big markets, "fair value" just might translate into "undervalued."