Many companies that are currently posting rapid growth will be unable to maintain that momentum or leverage it to create the types of sustainable advantages that produce big stock gains. That means identifying the best growth opportunities is no easy task, but owning even a small number of these high-performing companies can produce life-changing returns.
With that in mind, we asked three Motley Fool investors to each profile a standout opportunity for growth-focused investors. Read on to see why they think Jagged Peak Energy (NYSE:JAG), Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX), and Tencent Holdings (OTC:TCEHY) are stocks that have what it takes to deliver explosive returns.
This oil stock has the fuel to soar to new heights
Matt DiLallo (Jagged Peak Energy): Shale driller Jagged Peak Energy is growing at a phenomenal rate these days. Through the third quarter, oil and gas production was up a stunning 201% over the previous year. While that was from a low starting point, the company is still growing at a rapid pace and expects output to rise by another 38% in the fourth quarter. Fueling the company's growth is its prime position in the oil-rich Permian Basin.
Meanwhile, Jagged Peak still has plenty of growth left in the tank. As of the end of the third quarter, the shale driller had 1,400 drilling locations left, all of which could earn strong economic returns at current oil prices thanks to its low drilling costs. For a company that was on pace to complete 47 wells last year, that inventory can fuel fast-paced growth for quite some time, especially since it has a top-tier balance sheet with ample financial capacity to continue spending on new wells.
But despite Jagged Peak's rapidly ascending production and cash flow, its stock has slipped since the company went public early last year, mainly because of the market's recent tumble. That lower share price, however, makes it even more likely that this oil stock could soar in the coming years as it quickly grows oil production into an improving market.
A hot biotech with more room to run
Keith Speights (Vertex Pharmaceuticals): Were it not for the recent market pullback, Vertex Pharmaceuticals stock would have doubled over the past 12 months. Even with the stock market jitters, the biotech stock is still way up. I think Vertex has plenty of room to go even higher.
The FDA is scheduled to announce an approval decision for the tezacaftor/ivacaftor combo for treatment of cystic fibrosis (CF) by Feb. 28. Vertex also expects to win European approval for the tez/iva combo in the second half of this year.
Those are just the beginnings of potential catalysts for Vertex stock over the next couple of years. The biotech recently reported great initial results from phase 2 studies of its triple-drug CF combos and selected two of them to advance into late-stage clinical studies. A couple of late-stage studies evaluating VX-659 in triple combination with tezacaftor and ivacaftor should begin in the next few months. Vertex also hopes to begin a late-stage study of VX-445 with tezacaftor and VX-561 by mid-2018.
I think Vertex is set to continue its domination of the CF market. However, I'm also excited about the biotech's prospects in treating other diseases. Vertex is working with CRISPR Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CRSP) to develop gene-editing therapies for genetic blood disorder beta-thalassemia and for sickle cell disease. My view is that Vertex ranks as one of the best stocks on the market focusing on treatment of rare diseases.
A Chinese multimedia giant
Keith Noonan (Tencent Holdings): When it comes to finding stocks with big return potential, one characteristic I like to look for is synergy among business segments that can create sustainable competitive advantages. That's a quality that Tencent Holdings has in spades, and I think it stands a good chance of posting impressive stock gains despite already having a market cap north of $500 billion.
The company recorded 61% year-over-year sales growth and a 67% increase in profit in its September-ended quarter, and its multimedia empire is only getting stronger. Tencent is currently the world's largest video game publisher by measure of revenue, and its assortment of strong franchises and development resources puts it in good position to benefit from industry momentum.
It also owns and operates WeChat, China's most popular messaging service and one that has roughly a billion monthly active users worldwide. The company integrates its messaging platforms into its gaming business, using the service for promotions, communication between players, and in-game purchases through the service's online payment system. These network advantages helped the company launch its own online video service, which recently became China's leader in the category by measure of mobile daily active users and subscriptions.
Tencent is ramping up its presence in the cloud-services space as well, a move that's expanding its customer base and strengthening its core gaming, online advertising, and social media businesses. The massive number of users in the company's ecosystem should give Tencent significant advantages in emerging cloud-related categories such as artificial intelligence. In addition to a favorable interplay between its businesses, Tencent is also on track to benefit from increasing adoption and an expanding middle class in China, rounding out a confluence of growth drivers that's paving the way to big stock gains.