Getting great returns in the stock market has two sides to the equation: the rate of growth and the valuation you pay for that growth. A company that grows 20% a year or more is great, but is it worth a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 70 or 80? Maybe not.
Finding the best deals in the market is finding high rates of growth at low valuations, so we asked three of our investing contributors to each highlight a stock that has incredible growth prospects ahead of it, while trading at a low valuation. Here's why they picked GameStop (NYSE:GME), General Motors (NYSE:GM), and First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR).
It's not game over yet
Brian Feroldi (GameStop): The market has been pummeling retail stocks for quite some time, and for good reason. Simply put, there are too many stores in America and not enough shoppers. Add in the relentless pressure from a certain e-commerce giant that calls Seattle home, and it's easy to understand why Wall Street is down on the entire sector.
Given these realities, you might not be surprised to learn that the video game retailer GameStop is currently trading in deep-value territory. With a P/E ratio of 6 and a dividend yield of 7.5%, it's clear that many think that this company's growth days are over.
Even though the company is facing its fair share of headwinds, I think sticking with GameStop still makes sense for a few reasons. First, the Nintendo Switch is clearly a hit with consumers, and the upcoming launch of the Xbox One X could spur a console upgrade cycle. Second, the company is quickly diversifying away from its dependence on physical video games by opening more stores that sell mobile phones, Apple products, and collectibles. Finally, GameStop also boasts a growing digital video game business.
Believe it or not, analysts expect that these initiatives will allow GameStop's profits to grow around 12% annually over the next five years. If true, then this deep-value stock could really be a growth stock in disguise.
An unconventional growth stock for unconventional times
John Rosevear (General Motors): I know, a century-old cyclical industrial business with high fixed costs isn’t exactly what you think of when you think "growth stock." But there’s a case for GM as a nice earnings-growth story that's just begun to unfold.
CEO Mary Barra has been among those making that case. We all know that the auto industry is set to be transformed drastically by new technologies and business models, like self-driving and shared mobility.
But as Barra sees it, GM isn’t about to be disrupted. On the contrary: As a company with deep expertise in integrating technology into vehicles and mass producing them, GM has an opportunity to profit handsomely from those coming changes.
Is that realistic? Rivals like Tesla and Alphabet’s Waymo get more attention from investors, which is one of the reasons why GM's stock is trading at a value-priced seven times earnings. But GM's self-driving technology is thought to be nearly ready for production for ride-hailing use -- and GM has the factory ready to produce those self-driving cars by the thousands.
GM isn’t just planning to be a supplier of self-driving cars for mobility businesses. It owns a big stake in Lyft, and its car-sharing subsidiary Maven is well positioned to become a ride-hailing contender on its own.
A long growth runway for this dirt-cheap valuation
Tyler Crowe (First Solar): Whenever a company has an enterprise-value-to-EBITDA ratio as low as First Solar's -- as of this writing, it's 2.9 times -- the assumption is that the company is priced for a significant decline in the long term. While First Solar has hit some speed bumps over the past year and a half with the timing of completed new projects and transitioning its manufacturing facilities for its new Series 6 panels, it's hard to not be bullish on the long-term prospects of this company.
First, solar power is expected to hit its stride in the coming years. Just recently, solar became cost competitive with fossil fuels without subsidies, which suggests that it's going to take a larger and larger share of the new generation capacity. Over the next 25 years or so, that's a multi-trillion dollar opportunity that could last for decades.
While First Solar isn't likely going to capture all of that market, the company is also ramping up its production capacity in the coming years. Over the next couple of years, management expects to grow its Series 6 production from 3 Gigawatts (GW) annually to 5 GW with its two existing production facilities. The company is already generating the best rates of return in the solar business, so when you combine its dirt-cheap valuation and the long growth runway ahead of it, it's hard to understand why Wall Street seems to be pessimistic about this stock.