Stocks that can quadruple in value while amassing nearly $100 billion valuations are not easy to come by, yet Starbucks (SBUX -0.01%) has managed to do just that and more. Investors who choose carefully, however, can see their portfolios surge over time, and when it comes to the stock market, slow and steady wins the race.
Achieving those kinds of returns requires patience, so we tapped three Motley Fool investors to contribute a company they foresee being able to rack up value over time. Here's why First Solar (FSLR 4.75%), Dunkin' Brands (DNKN), and Boyd Gaming (BYD 1.86%) made the list.
A sunny outlook for First Solar
Tyler Crowe (First Solar): The world of energy doesn't seem to be the place where investors would look for the next multibagger stock. Electricity and petroleum product demand in the U.S. has been relatively flat for close to 20 years, and it's an industry where competition is fierce. If you broaden the lens on how you view energy, though, it's quite apparent that there's a long and lucrative growth runway for the solar industry, and solar panel manufacturer First Solar in particular.
The first thing to consider is that even though electricity demand in the U.S. and other nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has been relatively flat, global electricity demand is still going strong. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that global electricity demand will grow by 48% between 2012 and 2040, with almost all of that growth coming from non-OECD nations. That also doesn't include replacement demand -- in other words, the need to replace older power generating facilities that have outlived their economic lives. Over that time horizon, about 75% of the $10 trillion that will be invested in the energy industry will go toward renewable energy investments.
That provides solar power companies such as First Solar an incredibly fertile field of growth over the next several decades. What makes First Solar stand out among the crowd of other solar investments, though, is the company's ability to generate a return for investors. Even though the solar-panel business is incredibly competitive, First Solar's management has consistently allocated capital better than its peers and has maintained the best returns in the business. If you're going to hitch your wagon to a company in this business over the long term, investing in the management team with the best reputation for deploying capital is a great place to start.
First Solar is by no means a get-rich-quick kind of stock. Based on the long-term outlook for solar power and First Solar's reputation of turning the industry growth into returns, this company looks as if it could be the next big thing in energy.
The other national coffee chain -- albeit one with more room to grow
Chuck Saletta (Dunkin' Brands): In the northeast United States, Dunkin' Brands' (DNKN) Dunkin' Donuts shops proliferate like Starbucks (SBUX -0.01%) does elsewhere. Nationwide, the U.S. claims over 8,500 Dunkin' Donuts stores, with over 11,300 outlets around the globe. That may seem like a lot of stores, but when you compare that to Starbucks' 13,000-plus domestic locations, and over 24,000 worldwide, it's clear that Dunkin' Brands may have more opportunity for growth.
The clear advantage Dunkin' Brands has is in food. While Starbucks regularly struggles with its food offerings, Dunkin' Brands' food business -- particularly breakfast, doughnuts, and ice cream (through its Baskin-Robins line) -- is a solid part of Dunkin' Brands' success model.
The other key opportunity Dunkin' Brands has to drive growth is its 100% franchised operating model. Since franchisees are responsible for the capital costs of building and starting up a store, it's that much less drain and financial leverage on the company itself to fund the costs of its expansion.
From an investor's perspective, Dunkin' Brands trades at around 20 times its expected forward earnings, compared with around 24 times forward earnings for Starbucks. When combined with its asset-light franchising model and smaller current footprint with more room to grow, that lower stock market valuation gives Dunkin' Brands an opportunity for solid potential returns, perhaps even in line with or ahead of Starbucks.
A big bet on regional gaming
Rich Duprey (Boyd Gaming): You might not find a casino on every corner, as some wags suggest there seem to be with Starbucks coffee shops, but the odds Boyd Gaming is successful with its bet on regional gaming look good.
While Boyd has a presence in Las Vegas, you're not going to find any of its casinos on the Strip but rather elsewhere around the city, such as downtown and north Las Vegas, as well as in Henderson, where it targets locals instead of tourists. Similarly, after selling its 50% stake in the Borgata resort in Atlantic City to former partner MGM Resorts , Boyd now has casinos only in such non-destination locales as Dubuque, Iowa; Shreveport, La.; and Biloxi, Miss.
And that's just fine with the gambling house, which reported a 10% increase in first-quarter revenue to $605 million that allowed it to reinstate its cash dividend. The nominal $0.05-per-share quarterly payout currently yields less than 1%, but it indicates the sound financial footing on which the casino operator finds itself. It noted, "Every segment of our business recorded year-over-year margin improvements, as the large majority of our properties posted year-over-year adjusted EBITDA growth."
Although Vegas, Atlantic City, and Macau grab all the headlines, these regional gambling locations represent a healthy market opportunity out of the spotlight. For example, Las Vegas Strip gambling win is up 3% year to date, but downtown win is 11% higher. It might be magnitudes of order smaller than the Strip, but it's a lucrative market nonetheless.
Successfully targeting these out-of-the-way spots won't have Boyd Gaming casinos popping up everywhere. But in enough markets, it is the one with the winning hand.