Sustainable energy solutions developer Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) has created tremendous value for both our modern society and its investors. Early investors have to be absolutely thrilled with the stock's performance, especially those who followed Motley Fool Rule Breakers into the stock in late 2011, given that shares are up nearly 1,000% over that time frame.
While Tesla might still have plenty of power left in its battery packs to sustain its growth for several years, it will be tough for the stock to deliver a repeat performance over the next several years. Because of that, we're on the lookout for stocks that seem ready to hit the accelerator on growth. Three that we think could deliver Tesla-like returns in the years ahead are Rice Energy (NYSE:RICE), Malibu Boats (NASDAQ:MBUU), and FireEye, Inc (NASDAQ:FEYE).
High-speed growth fueled by cleaner-burning energy
Matt DiLallo (Rice Energy): At first glance, it might seem odd to suggest that a natural gas driller has the potential to deliver Telsa-like gains, since the electric carmaker is hoping to put the fossil industry out of business. That said, what differentiates Rice Energy from others in the sector is its focus on producing cleaner-burning natural gas, which will be an important bridge fuel as the world strives to clean up its emissions. According to an outlook from the International Energy Agency, natural gas, along with wind and solar, will be a big winner over the next 25 years.
That forecast suggests a bright future for Rice Energy, which currently controls a prime position in America's low-cost Marcellus and Utica shale gas regions. This location is important because wells drilled into those two rock formations can produce stunning returns, with core wells on Rice's acreage achieving 85% internal rates of return even at currently low gas prices. Because of those returns, the company expects to deliver robust production growth over the next several years, even if gas prices remain weak.
Under Rice Energy's current projections, it's on pace to increase output by a 27% to 33% compound annual rate through 2019 while living within cash flow around current gas prices. That growth has the potential to fuel substantial returns for investors, with further upside if gas prices start to recover. Given the projection that demand for U.S. natural gas is expected to accelerate over the next five years due to new power plants, petrochemical complexes, and LNG export facilities, higher prices could very well be just over the horizon. Suffice it to say, investors in Rice Energy could do extremely well even as the world transitions to a low-carbon future, because it's becoming a leader in producing low-cost, clean-burning natural gas.
Riding the wave
Rich Duprey (Malibu Boats): Performance sports boat manufacturer Malibu Boats has been the industry leader since 2010 and currently has a 32% share of the U.S. market, comfortably ahead of MasterCraft and Correct Craft, which are virtually tied for second place with a 21.7% and 21.6% share, respectively. Malibu also has a 53% share of exports to the international market, which is more than its top two competitors combined.
Because those three companies comprise three-quarters of the U.S. market, though, they're able to obtain premium pricing, which bolsters their profit margins. In its fiscal 2017 third-quarter earnings report issued last month, Malibu reported that gross profits rose 16% on a 12% increase in sales, widening gross margins to 27.7% from 26.9% a year ago. Operating margins grew from 15% to 16% year over year. It was able to achieve those gains by raising prices and lowering discounts.
Other leading powersport vehicle makers like Polaris Industries and Harley-Davidson have run into rough waters and are caught in a promotional environment that's weighing on results. While Harley has mostly ignored the discounting going on, its sales have taken a hit.
Malibu Boats is enjoying the opposite, with record sales, rising prices, and fatter profits. Both the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Statistical Surveys have found that tow boats such as those made by Malibu are in a major upcycle as sports like wakesurfing catch on with millennials. They don't expect the growth that has been on the upswing since 2011 to end anytime soon.
Shares of Malibu Boats are up 30% year to date and are 75% higher over the last 12 months, but with its dominant market position here and abroad, strong pricing power, and a growth trajectory that continues to swell, it looks like this performance sports boat maker is only just catching a wave that has a long way to go before it crests.
Plenty of problems to solve
Daniel Miller (FireEye): Tesla has been one of the hottest stocks over the past decade. It's shaken up a rather dull automotive industry and ignited a fire under historically lethargic automakers to rapidly develop their own electric vehicle portfolios. The market bought into the Tesla story thanks to its long-term potential, and another stock with similar potential in an industry poised to expand rapidly is cybersecurity solutions company FireEye, Inc.
Make no mistake: FireEye is a long-term investment, and the company is still expanding its products and services that management believes will drive additional revenue as soon as the second half of 2017. Much of the optimism is from its newly launched Helix security platform product, which generated a last-minute surge of deals during the first quarter and enabled the company to top revenue estimates.
One reason for investors to finally turn bullish after the stock price has remained stagnant over the past year is that management has narrowed losses. Thanks to trimmed costs and overhead, the company's operating margin loss was 7% during the first quarter, a large improvement compared to the prior-year Q1's 44% loss.
Our world is filled with more internet connectivity than ever, opening the doors for an increasing number of sophisticated cyberattacks, and that trend isn't going to reverse. These attacks simply aren't stopped by traditional security services, such as firewalls and typical antivirus programs. As the threat levels increase in number and sophistication, it sets the stage for FireEye to continue innovating new products while shoring up its costs and approaching profitability. If management can execute on growing its bottom line, this is definitely a stock with high-return potential -- just be sure you're willing to accept the sizable amount of risk that comes with the investment.
Daniel Miller has no position in any stocks mentioned. Matt DiLallo has no position in any stocks mentioned. Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Polaris Industries and Tesla. The Motley Fool recommends FireEye. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.