Electric-car maker Tesla has buoyed investors by turning in a remarkable performance since late last year, doubling in value in just seven months.
Finding stocks that could match or surpass such gains is no easy task, so we asked three top Motley Fool contributors to identify one growth stock they believe could soar higher than Tesla. Read on to find out why RSP Permian (NYSE:RSPP), Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX), and Yum China (NYSE:YUMC) may just drive ahead of the carmaker.
A fast-growing fossil fuel stock
Matt DiLallo (RSP Permian): While Tesla would love to put oil companies out of business, it has a long way to go. In fact, the International Energy Agency expects that worldwide oil demand will continue growing until at least 2040. That forecast suggests that there's still plenty of growth left in the tank for oil stocks, especially for rapidly growing Permian Basin producer RSP Permian.
The oil producer has been growing at a healthy clip since it came public right before oil prices started crashing in 2014. Because of that, the stock is up more than 50% over that time frame despite a 50% plunge in crude prices. Fueling that massive outperformance is RSP Permian's prime position in the Permian, where it can earn lucrative returns on new wells even at currently low oil prices. The bulk of its drilling locations can make a 40% internal rate of return at $55 oil, with a significant portion attaining 70%-plus returns at that oil price. While crude is currently about $10 a barrel below that level, RSP Permian can still earn lucrative returns on new wells.
Because of those returns, and a significant acquisition at the end of last year, RSP Permian plans to grow production by an eye-popping 90% rate this year. Furthermore, it has the visibility to expand output by a 30% compound annual rate from this year's level through the end of the decade, all while living within cash flow at $55 oil. That robust growth rate could fuel Tesla-like gains for investors in the years ahead if oil prices cooperate.
Great growth on the way for this biotech
Keith Speights (Vertex Pharmaceuticals): For some stocks, sizzling growth happens but is unexpected. Other stocks enjoy fantastic growth that's exactly what many expect. Vertex Pharmaceuticals belongs to the latter category.
The biotech stock has soared almost 70% so far in 2017. These impressive gains have been driven largely by two factors. First, sales for Vertex's cystic fibrosis (CF) drug Orkambi continue to pick up momentum. Vertex reports its first profit in the first quarter due to strong sales for Orkambi and continued growth for its first CF drug, Kalydeco.
Vertex also benefits from good news from its pipeline. The company announced positive results from two late-stage clinical studies evaluating a combination of tezacaftor and Kalydeco in treating CF. Vertex intends to submit the combo for regulatory approval in the U.S. and in Europe in the third quarter.
The growth story for Vertex isn't about to end. Wall Street analysts think the biotech can grow earnings by an average annual rate of 61% over the next five years. This growth assumes continued success for Orkambi and approval for the tezacaftor-Kalydeco combo.
Vertex's future growth will also be driven by its longer-term strategy of developing next-generation correctors for cystic fibrosis and partnering on gene-editing approaches to treat the disease. Although there's always the possibility that Vertex runs into problems, the odds for sustained growth appear to be in the company's favor.
Still finger-lickin' good
Rich Duprey (Yum China): After a strong performance in the first quarter, Yum China is ready for more finger-lickin' good growth not only this year, but for some time to come.
Despite going up against some tough comparables, the Chinese KFC and Pizza Hut operator was still able to post higher comparable-store sales in the period, and were it not for foreign currency exchange rates, its net sales would have been higher too. There remains a lot of expansion opportunity in the country, which is the reason it opened more than 130 restaurants in the quarter, but with its former parent also planning a major growth initiative in China, Yum China is going to be the beneficiary.
Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM) recently said it intended to grow its Taco Bell chain into a $15 billion business over the next few years. While a lot of new restaurants will be opened in the U.S., at least 100 restaurants will be sited in Brazil, Canada, China, and India. Yum China will gain from the expansion because it has exclusive marketing rights for the KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell brands in the region, long Yum! Brands' biggest, most profitable market until several food scandals knocked it down.
As Yum China's recent earnings report shows, those are now in the rearview mirror, and the company is forging new growth opportunities for itself. The restaurant operator's stock is up 50% in the past three months, but Wall Street still anticipates it being able to expand earnings per share at a rate of 13% annually for the next five years. The forecast likely doesn't include the Taco Bell potential since that was only just recently announced. Although Yum! Brands has had a tough time getting Taco Bell to successfully grow in India, its long, proven track record in China suggests it -- and Yum China -- will hit the ground running.