One could argue that almost any stock is a better investment than cryptocurrencies. Clearly, some stocks are far superior to others, offering brighter growth prospects, lower valuations, or both. If you're looking to park your cash in stocks instead of cryptocurrencies, we've got some ideas for you. Here's why three of our Foolish investors think NVIDIA (NVDA 1.87%), Cisco Systems (CSCO 0.65%), and Energous (WATT -2.33%) have the potential to be great investments.
Buy the tech, not the coins
Leo Sun (NVIDIA): Buying cryptocurrencies is dangerously speculative, but buying well-diversified companies that provide technologies for cryptocurrency mining is safer. Mining cryptocurrencies requires high-powered GPUs, and NVIDIA is the top dog in that market.
NVIDIA generates most of its revenue from sales of gaming GPUs. Sales of these chips have surged over the past few years, thanks to more graphically demanding games. NVIDIA also sells higher-end GPUs for machine learning purposes in data centers, as well as CPUs for infotainment and navigation systems in connected and driverless cars. These businesses are firing on all cylinders, and analysts expect the company's revenue and earnings to rise 37% and 63%, respectively, this year.
The cryptocurrency craze caused prices of both NVIDIA and AMD (AMD 9.06%) GPUs to spike over the past year. Each company's GPUs excel at a distinct kind of mining, but NVIDIA arguably has the stronger business with its higher market share of discrete GPUs and first mover's advantages in both the data center and automotive markets.
NVIDIA's cryptocurrency-related revenue fell 53% annually to $70 million last quarter, due to volatile purchases of cards for mining purposes. However, that accounts for less than 3% of NVIDIA's total revenue -- which surged 32% annually on robust sales of its gaming, data center, and automotive chips.
Therefore, stronger cryptocurrency demand could generate a fresh revenue stream for NVIDIA, but if the bubble pops and demand plummets, sales of other types of GPUs can easily pick up the slack. That's why buying NVIDIA is a better idea than buying cryptocurrencies.
A solid tech stock
Tim Green (Cisco Systems): Networking hardware giant Cisco has nothing to do with cryptocurrencies. It's a mature tech company that pays a nice dividend. It won't double overnight, but it's a solid long-term investment.
Cisco's core business is selling switching and routing hardware. The company has been moving toward recurring revenue and subscriptions, which has been a drag on growth. The good news is that these efforts are starting to pay off: The company expects to grow revenue in its fiscal second quarter for the first time in two years.
The stock soared 26% last year as investors woke up to Cisco's discount valuation. The stock isn't as cheap as it was prior to this run, but it's still reasonably priced. Cisco trades for 15.8 times the average analyst estimate for adjusted 2018 earnings, and that ratio drops if you back out the excess cash on the balance sheet. Cisco also pays a dividend that yields about 3%.
Owning Cisco stock probably won't be very exciting in the coming year, unlike owning cryptocurrency. But with Cisco, you're buying something that has intrinsic value, trades at a reasonable valuation, and pays you each and every quarter. That's tough to beat.
Changing wireless charging as we know it
Steve Symington (Energous): There's no denying that cryptocurrencies have the potential to change the way the world uses money. But even if that turns out to be the case, trying to find out exactly which one emerges triumphant in the end is a long shot.
Meanwhile, Energous Corp. just became the first and only company to receive Federal Communications Commission certification for a product that provides wireless charging at a distance. Energous received the coveted designation for its first-generation WattUp Mid Field transmitter, which can wirelessly charge and power devices using radio frequency technology from up to three feet away. Those devices could include everything from smartphones to tablets, TVs, computer monitors, lighting, speakers, or any other relatively low-power device in close proximity.
As Energous board member Martin Cooper put it, as original equipment manufacturers begin to incorporate WattUp chips into their products, consumers will be free "from ever having to think about charging their devices again."
Roth Capital analyst William Gibson estimates that WattUp will start to appear in shipped devices as early as the first quarter of 2018, generating a modest $100,000 in quarterly revenue to start. But he thinks sales will ramp up quickly from there, generating revenue of almost $23 million for all of 2018, and $169 million in 2019.
Of course, much in the same way many cryptocurrency values have soared in recent months, Energous stock skyrocketed over the past week in response to upbeat expectations, with shares nearly quadrupling in the two days following the announcement. But it also pulled back nearly 40% on Dec. 29 alone as traders began to take their short-term profits.
As WattUp's true potential becomes more clear -- and assuming a larger company doesn't acquire the technology before then -- I think Energous could still reward patient investors willing to take advantage of the brief pullback and watch its longer-term story unfold.