Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has played a leading role in the tech sector and built a global user base of more than 2 billion people. It's also delivered great returns for shareholders along the way, growing its market cap from roughly $104 billion at the time of its initial public offering in 2012 to roughly $520 billion today. That's a fantastic return over the stretch, but there are companies trading on the market today that may go on to trounce the social-media giant's performance.
Identifying these stocks is no easy task. So we put together a panel of three top Motley Fool investors and asked each member to spotlight a company that could go on to be a huge market-beater. Read on to see why they think that Editas Medicine (NASDAQ:EDIT), Baozun (NASDAQ:BZUN), and Weibo (NASDAQ:WB) are stocks that have the potential to deliver stellar returns.
Keith Speights (Editas Medicine): Imagine you owned the patents to a technology that held the potential to treat and even cure over 6,000 diseases. Editas Medicine doesn't have to imagine; that's reality for the clinical-stage biotech.
Editas holds the patents for use of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing approach in humans. This approach uses a bacterial enzyme called Cas9 to alter DNA. The technology is revolutionary in that it has made gene editing cheaper and faster than ever before.
Theoretically, CRISPR-Cas9 could be used to treat any genetic disease; the trick is to know which specific gene mutations cause the disease. Editas Medicine is working on gene-editing treatments for genetic diseases including Leber congenital amaurosis, beta thalassemia, cystic fibrosis, and sickle-cell disease. In addition, the company has partnered with Juno Therapeutics to use gene editing in engineering T cells to fight cancer.
Several other biotechs are also developing therapies based on CRISPR-Cas9 to treat other diseases. If they're successful, these companies will likely have to pay royalties to Editas for any successful treatments. Editas licenses patents claimed by the Broad Institute for use of CRISPR-Cas9 in humans, and these patents were upheld in a key decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2017. However, the Broad Institute is appealing a European Patent Office denial that was based on what the institute calls "a technical formality."
It's still early, though. Some issues with CRISPR-Cas9 have arisen -- and there could be more in the future. However, if the gene-editing approach lives up to its promise, Editas Medicine could easily generate returns that dwarf those of Facebook over the long run.
A promising e-commerce platform
Keith Noonan (Baozun): China is one of the world's fastest-growing economies and a key part of many companies' growth plans, but regulations and other hurdles mean that setting up shop can be difficult or outright impossible for non-domestic businesses. Baozun is a company that provides e-commerce platform services for its brand partners, enabling companies like Nike, Microsoft, and Tapestry an easy way to enter and tap into this huge growth market.
China already does more e-commerce business than anywhere else in the world, accounting for $1.1 trillion of the $2.3 trillion spent worldwide in 2017, according to eMarketer -- and all signs suggest that the country's online retail sector will continue to see robust growth. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that the e-commerce share of China's overall retail market will have grown from 17% in 2017 to 25% in 2020 -- a statistic that looks even better in the context of the country's rapidly expanding middle class and increases in per-capita discretionary spending.
Baozun is currently the leader in its niche, with roughly 25% market share, and looks poised to deliver strong sales and earnings growth as it adds new brand clients and shifts to a less cost-intensive business model. The company's partnerships with JD.com and Alibaba, China's biggest online retail platforms, should also give it a sustainable defensive edge against competitors.
Even though its share price has climbed roughly 133% over the last year, Baozun still has a market cap in the $2 billion range. Along with a forward price-to-earnings ratio of roughly 32, which looks quite appealing given the company's growth prospects, the stock has a feasible runway to delivering multibagger returns that put Facebook's performance to shame.
The "Twitter of China"
Leo Sun (Weibo): Weibo is often called China's Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), but the microblogging platform more closely resembles a combination of Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. Weibo was spun off from internet news company SINA (NASDAQ:SINA) in 2014, as its user growth slowed (due to competition from Tencent Holdings' WeChat) and it faced tougher scrutiny from government censors.
But on its own, Weibo staged a comeback by securing deals for preinstalled apps on smartphones, expanding into rural areas, and luring more celebrities, influencers, and brands to its platform. As a result, Weibo started growing faster than SINA, which still owns nearly half the company and retains a majority voting stake.
Weibo's revenue rose 75% in 2017, fueled by a 75% jump in core advertising revenues and 81% growth in value-added services (like virtual gifts for live video broadcasters). In December, its monthly active users (MAUs) climbed 25% annually to 392 million. Its GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) and non-GAAP net income soared 226% and 121%, respectively, as its adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) jumped 143%.
For 2018, analysts expect Weibo's revenue and earnings to rise 52% and 53%, respectively, as its MAUs and advertising revenues keep rising. The stock also remains reasonably valued at 33 times forward earnings.
However, Weibo's growth could still be derailed by the Chinese government, which has been tightening its grip on the network with arrests, account removals, fines, and the temporary suspension of certain features. Investors should fully understand these threats before buying any shares.