Back in 2016, a Bank of America/Merrill Lynch report examined an age-old question: Which type of stock is better over the long haul, growth or value? Though value stocks had the edge over the 90-year period examined, growth stocks have trounced value stocks in the low-rate environment since the Great Recession. That trend doesn't look like it's changing anytime soon.
With the Fed taking its time raising interest rates, we asked three of our Foolish investors what growth stock they believe investors should consider buying in March. Rising to the front of the pack were precious metal miner First Majestic Silver (NYSE:AG), Taser and body camera manufacturer Axon Enterprise (NASDAQ:AAXN), and e-commerce juggernaut Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN).
A lustrous growth stock in the precious metal industry
Sean Williams (First Majestic Silver): When you think of growth stocks, precious metal miners probably aren't the first thing that come to mind. But after years of conservatively managing its finances, First Majestic Silver stands on the verge of incredibly rapid sales and cash flow growth beginning this year and extending over the next four to five years. There are three factors that have me, a precious metals bull, excited.
For starters, First Majestic Silver is more intricately tied to the silver market than any other producer. Though it has diversified its holdings a bit (we'll get to that in the next paragraph), the company has anticipated that 70% of its revenue would come from silver production in 2018. Silver has underperformed in recent years relative to gold, and investors often watch the gold-to-silver ratio for clues as to which metal could outperform the other. With the ratio currently at 80.5 -- i.e., it would take 80.5 ounces of silver to buy one ounce of gold -- and any figure above 50 often viewed as a sign to buy silver, I'm liking the chance for silver to outperform gold over the next couple of years.
Secondly, First Majestic went on the offensive in January when it announced the friendly acquisition of Primero Mining for $320 million. With Primero in a financial bind, First Majestic was able to swoop in and nab the prized San Dimas gold and silver mine in Mexico for a great deal. It was also able to rework a silver streaming deal that had been in place with Wheaton Precious Metals at San Dimas into a more favorable gold and silver stream. It's a win for all parties involved as it shores up production for Wheaton, gives First Majestic a means to boost cash flow and production of gold and silver, and offered a premium to existing Primero shareholders.
Lastly, First Majestic should see better yields at existing mines La Encantada, Del Toro, and La Guitarra, while also benefiting from bringing developing mines on line over the next two to four years. For instance, Plomosas and La Luz have the potential to generate around 2 million ounces of silver per year, which, combined with organic expansion of existing mines, could boost silver production to 20 million ounces -- it produced 9.7 million ounces last year. Add in San Dimas and we could be talking about 25 million or more ounces of annual silver production, or 27 million to 30 million silver-equivalent ounces. Not surprisingly, annual revenue is expected to grow at First Majestic from $252 million in 2017 to an estimated $438 million in 2019, with cash flow per share essentially doubling.
In short, yes, precious metal miners can be growth stocks, and First Majestic Silver looks like an intriguing buy for March.
Next-generation law enforcement technology
Travis Hoium (Axon Enterprise): As more attention is put on law enforcement to be better and more accountable at their jobs, it's natural that body cameras and less lethal weapons like Tasers have become increasingly popular. The leader in both product categories is Axon Enterprise, and that's the growth stock I think is a great buy this month.
Recently reported fourth-quarter earnings showed a 15.3% increase in Axon's revenue to $94.7 million, and management said in 2018 that it expects 16% to 18% revenue growth. That's an impressive figure when you consider that most of the growth is in body cameras, which are usually sold in long-term contracts bundled with services like subscriptions to Evidence.com. This dampens revenue growth, even if the backlog is exploding. This is shown by 28.2% overall revenue growth in 2017, despite 52.8% growth in future contracted revenue during 2017 to $536.0 million at year-end.
But it's not past growth that gives me confidence in Axon Enterprise's business going forward. It's the way the company is expanding into adjacent product markets like holsters that activate body cameras, a record management system that will make collecting evidence easier, and an artificial intelligence team that will make sorting evidence more efficient.
Being on the leading edge of law enforcement technology is a growth business right now, and there's no better bet on the industry than Axon Enterprise.
This growth stock is the full package
Danny Vena (Amazon.com): Just because a stock is hitting all-time highs doesn't mean you shouldn't be adding it to your portfolio. Investors should be less concerned with past performance and more interested in future potential -- and no company has greater potential than Amazon.
There are several trends that should keep Amazon going strong for years to come. First, it's the world's largest e-tailer, which gives it tremendous economies of scale that are nearly impossible to match. The company has built a powerful logistics, fulfillment, and shipping network that continues to scale. Customers flocked to the site, increasing sales by 38% year over year to $60 billion last quarter.
It's important to remember that e-commerce currently represents just a fraction of purchases in the U.S., at 8.9% of total retail sales last quarter. Some reports indicate that Amazon accounted for 44% of all domestic online sales last year, nabbing 4% of total U.S. retail sales.
Amazon is expanding worldwide and introducing its biggest growth drivers to international markets. The company is estimated to have 90 million U.S. Prime members, who pay $99 per year or $12.99 per month for the privilege. That's important because these subscribers tend to spend $1,300 annually compared to $700 by nonmember customers. Prime provides subscribers with a host of benefits including free two-day shipping and free video and music streaming.
In addition, Amazon Echo controls an estimated 75% of the smart speaker market, but it's much more than a novelty, as owners of the device spend an estimated $1,700 annually and it's being introduced to more and more countries with each passing year.
Finally, Amazon Web Services (AWS) remains the top dog in cloud computing, and the segment is still generating impressive growth. Revenue increased 43% in 2017 to $17.5 billion, while operating income jumped 39%. This side business accounted for 10% of Amazon's total revenue and all of its operating profit last year.
Growing adoption of e-commerce, worldwide expansion of Prime, and the increasing dominance of both AWS and Echo show that Amazon's stellar growth should continue far into the future.