The future can arrive in an instant, or so it often seems -- especially in the world of business, where companies that fail to adapt to new trends can go the way of the dinosaur quickly, leaving their shareholders disappointed.
On the other side of that equation, there are the companies that do identify the next soon-to-be massive trends, and position themselves to capitalize on them, to the profit of their investors. Two that I think fit that bill are Tencent Holdings Ltd (NASDAQOTH:TCEHY) and Control4 Corp. (NASDAQ:CTRL).
Esports is big and getting bigger
What's crazy about esports is how much the business has grown while still flying under so many investors' radar. Let me throw a few statistics at you: Global video game revenue commonly gets compared to movie ticket sales as a gauge of their importance in the entertainment industry, and in 2017, video games will generate more than three times as much as movie tickets did in 2016, according to newzoo.com, a digital gaming market research firm. But that's just beginning. Consider this tidbit from market consultant Tom Wijman:
An increasingly striking comparison is one to the global sports business, estimated to total between $130 and $150 billion depending on the definition and reporting source. This includes media rights sales, sponsorships, merchandise, and ticketing. At the current growth rates of both markets, game revenues will surpass sports revenues in three or four years from now.
You can invest in multiple aspects of the video game market, but what investors should zoom in on is what's driving the overall surge: esports. Professional competitive gaming is poised to explode as competitive titles continue to top the charts worldwide including Tencent's Arena of Valor. Newzoo also estimates that 22% of male American millennials watch esports, which is nearly equal to the percentage of them that watch baseball and hockey.
Tencent is a leading provider of value-added internet services in China, and online games generated 41% of its revenue in the third quarter of 2017 -- when, by the way, it crushed analysts' expectations. Esports is already huge, it's only going to get bigger, and Tencent's powerful online gaming business should thrive as that trend develops.
Smart homes coming to a neighborhood near you
Control4 won't make all of the smart devices in your home -- it will only make all of the smart devices in your home work better, and work together. The No. 1 pro-installed smart home brand offers solutions that range from a single-room setup for $1,000 to a massive whole-home solution that can range from $20,000 up to a staggering $250,000. Factor in the 31% compound annual growth rate in the number of U.S. connected homes from 2015 to 2017, according to marketing consultancy McKinsey & Co., a trend that is expected to stay strong, and you have a potentially lucrative trend that's still in the early innings.
Growth of the company's dealership network has been powering the top line higher: Revenue jumped 27.9% to $208.8 million in 2016 and is forecast to jump another 16.6% in 2017. What investors should also notice, and appreciate, is that the young company has a squeaky clean balance sheet. It ended the third quarter with more than $71 million in cash, no debt, and an unused $30 million line of credit. Heck, it has even repurchased $14.1 million shares since May 2015.
Control4 is already performing well financially, but it's the potential growth that remains most appealing. Consider that it estimates it has achieved a 2% penetration among the 14.1 million U.S. households with annual incomes above $150,000. Not only is the company positioned to further expand its footprint as this country's smart home sector develops in the coming decades, investors should consider the international opportunity as well.
Control4's stock price has jumped 205% over the past 12 months. While it will certainly face intense competition as the smart home megatrend explodes, if it continues to grow its dealership network and innovate its products and services, it has the strong potential to be a brilliant stock to hold for the long term.