Growth investors can be a hopeful bunch. Not content with simply reaping the long-term benefits of index-fund investing, we reach for market-beating returns -- with long-lasting staying power, if at all possible.
But the high-growth portion of the stock market is also full of landmines. For every big winner, you'll run across scores of also-rans, has-beens, and downright value traps. To guide you past these dangers in search of some true high-octane growth stocks, we put together a panel of your investors with a yen for high-growth investments. Read on to see why these Foolish investors are highlighting Tencent Holdings (TCTZ.F -1.35%) (TCEHY -1.79%), Cirrus Logic (CRUS -1.15%), and Visa (V -1.18%).
A well-oiled online machine
Keith Noonan (Tencent Holdings): If you're hunting for stocks with impressive growth potential, it's worth spending some time researching Chinese tech companies -- and Tencent Holdings in particular. Finding companies with a variety of distinct, yet connected business components that function at high levels to create synergistic effects is no easy task, but it's a quality that tends to deliver fantastic results over time and one that positions Tencent for ongoing success.
Tencent's WeChat social messaging platform boasts an impressive 938 million monthly active users and has evolved into one of China's dominant e-commerce platforms. The company is also a leader in the video game space and ties many of its most popular titles to the WeChat ecosystem, so players wind up using its online payment options to purchase in-game items -- which in turn makes them more likely to make other purchases through WeChat. Adding another layer of synergy, the company runs its services through its own commercial cloud platform -- cutting down on costs and keeping useful data in-house.
Tencent has already delivered explosive capital appreciation over the last five years, with shares up more than 540% over that stretch, and its stock currently trades at all-time highs even as the Chinese government looks poised to implement new restrictions on online games. These qualities might deter investors who prefer lower risk profiles, but Tencent's momentum in online payment and cloud services, impressive lineup of content offerings, and potential to expand outside of China give it avenues to tremendous performance down the line.
Cirrus and Apple: Risky business?
Anders Bylund (Cirrus Logic): By the numbers, Cirrus Logic comes with pretty much every hallmark of a great growth stock. Earnings have increased by an annual average of 25% over the last five years and are expected to keep on trucking at a 23% average growth rate for the next half-decade. Top-line sales increased by 29% per year over the same trailing period.
On top of that, the stock is cheap. Instead of a chunky growth premium, Cirrus Logic investors can pick up shares at the rock-bottom rate of 17 times trailing earnings or 13 times free cash flow. Keep in mind that analysts are pegging the future growth rate at nearly the same level as the lift that brought the company this far, and the whole P/E calculation just falls apart.
Okay, so Cirrus shares rise and fall with the fortunes of largest customer Apple (AAPL -0.29%). In particular, Cirrus investors need to keep an eye on Apple's choice of audio chips in upcoming iPhone and iPad products. Cirrus has been the sole supplier for these audio solutions for many years and Apple accounted for roughly 79% of the chip designer's sales in fiscal year 2017.
If Apple products fall out of favor with consumers, Cirrus will suffer. If Apple selects another audio chip supplier or develops its own in-house audio solutions, Cirrus will suffer. Those risks may be small but are not exactly zero, which explains at least some of Cirrus Logic's bargain-basement stock prices.
If you're willing to face these Apple-related fears, Cirrus may just be the perfect growth stock for your portfolio. Share prices have surged 174% higher over the last three years, leaving both Apple and the overall market far behind:
I could produce equally impressive charts comparing Cirrus and Apple in terms of revenue growth, earnings increases, and cash flow surges. Suffice it to say that Cirrus is riding is Apple partnership like a champion even as Cupertino's own growth trends have started to slow down. Remember when Apple took the headphone jack out of the iPhone 7, replacing it with a new wireless audio technology? That was a huge boon for Cirrus, which supplies the chips to drive both sides of that headphone connection.
It was also a pretty good sign that Apple intends to keep Cirrus chips around. That would otherwise have been a perfect time to come up with another audio chip and leave Cirrus behind. That didn't happen, and I don't see any signs of Apple leaning in that direction anytime soon.
So enjoy the Apple-centric risk discount while it lasts. Cirrus shares are skyrocketing for all the right reasons.
Payments are certain to grow
Jordan Wathen (Visa): Few stocks fit the growth profile quite like payment networks. Visa enables billions of customers to use its cards to make payments at tens of millions of merchants around the globe.
Visa has more scale than its competitors, scoring roughly half of all credit card volume, and about 70% of all debit card volume. On every swipe, Visa takes a small fee for orchestrating the movement of money from a consumers' bank account to the merchant. Thus, the primary drivers of growth are volume (how much the world spends each year) as well as card penetration (how much of global spending goes on cards).
Contrary to popular belief, Visa's take rate on each swipe is rather low, recently just 0.32% of each transaction in the first quarter. Of all the companies that collect a fee on every swipe, the payments networks provide perhaps the most value relative to their share of fees.
McKinsey and Nielsen, two companies that follow the payments industry, expect cards outstanding and volume growth of about 5% per year through 2020. Spending volume should grow as more cash transactions make their way to cards. In developed markets, a shift toward online purchasing should further fuel payments volume. E-commerce sales in the United States stood at about 8.5% of all retail sales in the first quarter of 2017, a figure which should only trend higher. Virtually all online spending currently flows through a credit or debit card, a boon for Visa.
It's my view that a mid-single-digit annual growth rate in cards can lead to high-single-digit earnings growth for the payment networks for a very long time to come. Shares trade for about 25 times expected earnings this year, a premium to the 19 times earnings multiple for the S&P 500, using data published by The Wall Street Journal. Given the quality of the business, and opportunities for growth, I think investors would be wise to pay the premium for Visa stock.