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3 High-Growth Stocks That Are Just Getting Started

By Keith Noonan, Daniel Miller, and Maxx Chatsko – May 11, 2018 at 8:11PM

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This panel of investors has identified three growth stocks that could power your portfolio for years to come.

Most businesses posting rapid expansion right now will not be able to maintain that level of growth over time. On the other hand, there will be standouts -- the rare companies with the right makeup and competitive advantages to capitalize on market trends and repeatedly take their businesses to the next level.

Having even a few of these companies working in your favor over the long term can be a life-changing event. To help put readers on to some high-growth stocks that still have big potential, we asked three Motley Fool investors to profile a top growth investment. Read on to see why they identified Codexis (CDXS -7.08%), Activision Blizzard (ATVI -1.19%), and Control4 Corporation (CTRL) as top stocks for growth-seeking investors.

A paper cutout of a rocket at the top of an ascending chart line.

Image source: Getty Images.

The emerging opportunity of enzyme engineering

Maxx Chatsko (Codexis): While the technology platform isn't grabbing headlines today, the long-term opportunity presented by enzyme engineering shouldn't be overlooked by investors. Codexis is a leader in designing biocatalysts, or molecules created from living organisms that increase the efficiency and lower costs of industrial and chemical manufacturing processes. It's quietly becoming big business for the well-positioned biotech.

In 2017, Codexis grew product revenue 75% from the prior year to nearly $27 million. It raked in enough collaboration revenue to push total sales to $50 million for the first time in company history. The growth stock is just getting started.

Full-year 2018 guidance calls for $60 million to $63 million in revenue at a gross margin of 46.5%. While product revenue is expected to be flat for the year -- which was a bit of a disappointment -- investors can chalk it up to growing pains for a young technology platform expanding its reach.

Historically, Codexis has only sold its enzymes to improve the efficiency of small-molecule pharmaceutical manufacturing processes. But in the last two years or so, it has expanded into food ingredient manufacturing and DNA sequencing applications. In the near future, it will enter into industrial applications, perhaps in metalworking or leatherworking. It will just take a little time to build a foothold in new industries to enable sustainable growth, so year-over-year numbers could be choppy.

The company isn't stopping there. While the core business is focused on selling enzymes for improving manufacturing processes, Codexis is beginning partnered clinical trials for an engineered enzyme that could potentially treat the rare disease phenylketonuria (PKU). The fact that it's not entirely dependent on a biopharma pipeline, and has an incredibly profitable industrial enzyme business, significantly de-risks clinical trials for shareholders.

To summarize, the emergence of machine learning and falling costs of biotech tools are quietly making enzyme engineering easier to apply to a variety of chemical manufacturing processes -- and Codexis is one of the only ways to invest in the opportunity today.

A game company still leveling up

Keith Noonan (Activision Blizzard): In general, I think investing in content producers is a smart move right now. An industry like automotive or oil and gas may change dramatically over the course of a decade. Even revolutionary hardware will trend toward commoditization, and we've seen how rapidly technology can bring about disruption. On the other hand, people's love of entertainment has been remarkably resilient and only gotten stronger over the last century. 

Predicting exactly which entertainment properties will go on to be hits is a tall order, but it seems like a safe bet that video games will be even more popular 10 years from now. With that in mind, I like Activision Blizzard stock to continue its impressive run.

The video game publisher has been a historically well-run business and has demonstrated commendable savvy in an industry that shakes out weak competitors. No gaming company that's participated in the rapid evolution of the medium and industry over the last two decades has more consistently delivered "the next big thing" than Activision Blizzard has, and the publisher appears to be on track to maintain its leadership. 

Thanks to deft management, the company enjoys an unsurpassed assortment of top video-game development teams, and franchises that make it a presumptive favorite to lead the core gaming market. These assets also make it a favorite to benefit from potentially high-growth markets like esports and virtual reality. 

The stock trades at roughly 27 times forward earnings -- not cheap at first glance, but the company has been consistently delivering impressive earnings growth and looks to have a bright future.

A smart trend

Daniel Miller (Control4 Corp.): Pretty much everything is getting smarter these days. Smartphones, smart cities, just about smart everything. It only makes sense that smart homes will likely become more and more a part of our lives in the coming decades. That's great news for investors of Control4 Corp., a provider of smart-home products and solutions.

Control4 rocketed 191.8% higher in 2017 before taking a breather and giving up some of those gains in 2018. However, the stock popped 13% on May 4, after releasing first-quarter results that included 18% revenue growth and beat estimates on both the top and bottom lines. Control4 has plenty of room to grow considering management believes it has penetrated less than 2% of the 17.2 million U.S. households that generate over $150,000 annual income. Here's the kicker: Its international opportunity is even larger, and largely untested by the company thus far. 

One intriguing path for Control4 to grow, in addition to its rapid organic growth, is by acquisitions. It's already successfully acquired and integrated five companies. And with no debt on the balance sheet, it's in a great position to strike if it finds a business that fits its business model and can accelerate growth. Management must capture more of the wealthy households in the U.S., expand its product lineup to increase sales from its customers, and expand internationally when the time is right. If those things are achieved, Control4's growth is just getting started.

Daniel Miller has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Keith Noonan owns shares of Activision Blizzard. Maxx Chatsko has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Activision Blizzard. The Motley Fool owns shares of Control4. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Codexis  Stock Quote
Codexis
CDXS
$6.04 (-7.08%) $0.46
Control4 Stock Quote
Control4
CTRL
Activision Blizzard Stock Quote
Activision Blizzard
ATVI
$74.11 (-1.19%) $0.89

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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