For one reason or another, many stocks seem to fly under Wall Street's radar. The companies often show strong sales and profit potential, yet they're ignored by investors who'd rather buy larger, better-known commodities.
That sets up a potential lucrative situation for investors who are willing to consider stocks that aren't as widely followed. Read on to find out why Motley Fool investors think National Beverage (FIZZ 4.04%), Franco Nevada (FNV 0.63%), and Codexis (CDXS 9.41%) fit that bill.
Demitri Kalogeropoulos (National Beverage): The $800 million of sales it booked last year was just a tiny fraction of the totals that established cola giants like Coca-Cola (KO 0.59%) managed. Yet National Beverage is expanding at a pace that Big Soda, and Wall Street, can't ignore for long.
Through a portfolio that's tilted toward non-traditional soda drinks, including the LaCroix sparkling water brand, National Beverage just posted its tenth consecutive quarter of double-digit profit growth. Sales were up 20% in the most recent quarter as volume spiked 18%. Coke booked flat volume in its latest quarterly outing.
The even better news for investors is that National Beverage's prices are rising at the same time. And, combined with the increasing economies of scale, that success just lifted operating margin to 21.5% of sales -- passing Coke's result for the first time.
The fact that National Beverage has kept up this growth pace despite a flood of comparable products entering the market implies strong brand loyalty, good marketing, and a healthy distribution infrastructure. The company will need each of these assets as it works to establish successful franchises like LaCroix and Shasta as the kind of lifelong drinking habits that Coke built its empire upon over the last century.
Pay attention to this gold stock
Neha Chamaria (Franco-Nevada Corp): Have you heard about a precious-metals company that doesn't make money from just gold but also oil and gas? And that the stock has been a multibagger in the past decade -- a rare feat in the industry? I'm talking about Franco-Nevada Corp, an incredibly interesting company that not only earns some of the biggest margins in the industry, but is also the most diversified precious-metals company with solid growth catalysts.
Gold isn't an easy business to be in given the unpredictability in metal prices. Yet, Franco-Nevada has been able to generate stellar shareholder returns and made investors rich over the years. The secret lies in the company's business model. You see, Franco-Nevada isn't a gold miner but a streaming and royalty company, which means it buys metal streams from other miners at a discount, or gains royalty rights over mines in exchange for upfront funding. Since Franco-Nevada doesn't own or operate mines, it's a relatively low-cost, high-margin business compared with a traditional mining.
Franco-Nevada is now exploring similar opportunities in the oil and gas sector via royalties. The company made significant headway last year by purchasing several royalty interests in key oil-producing regions such as the Permian Basin and STACK play in Oklahoma. Oil and gas is a unique opportunity, one that I believe could boost Franco-Nevada's growth prospects even further.
2017 was a strong year for Franco-Nevada, and it looks poised for another good year ahead. While the market focuses on the big gold-mining stocks, you should pay attention to this under-the-radar gold play.
Small-cap specialty chemical manufacturer
Maxx Chatsko (Codexis): In 2017, at least some investors took notice of the progress being made at Codexis. The company's stock gained 82% last year. But even after that run-up, the company boasts a market cap of just $400 million. While investors shouldn't expect a near-doubling of the share price every year, it's not unreasonable to expect above-average growth for years to come. Why?
Codexis wields a highly specialized technology platform allowing it to design, build, and test engineered enzymes for customers in the pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, and food ingredient industries. Enzymes are complex chemicals that can be added to chemical manufacturing processes to lower energy consumption, reduce waste, and increase yield. The efficiency gains can save customers millions of dollars per year, some of which is passed along to enzyme suppliers for their part in the value creation.
In other words, it can be a lucrative niche -- and Codexis is just beginning to hit its stride. In the first nine months of 2017, product revenue soared 73% from the year-ago period, and product gross margin settled at 40%. Most of the gains were derived from increased business from pharmaceutical customers and active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) manufacturing, the company's historical focus. But the enzyme engineering leader just branched out into food ingredient manufacturing, which should begin to contribute an increasing share of product revenue in 2018.
Combine that with the foray into wholly owned biotherapeutic clinical candidates -- the first of which will enter clinical trials in 2018 with the help of Nestle Health -- and broad opportunities to license its machine-learning platform to customers interested in leveraging the unique technology platform (for eight figures a pop), and it may only be a matter of time before Wall Street is forced to take notice of Codexis' growth potential.