Investing in high-growth stocks can be both exciting and financially rewarding. But the largest returns are reserved for patient investors who buy shares of great businesses early, then hold on for the long term.
Shopify (SHOP -3.12%) is one such business that illustrates that point nicely. Shares of the leading e-commerce platform provider have soared more than 400% since shortly after its mid-2015 initial public offering -- and this despite falling into the crosshairs of a noted short-seller late last year.
Of course, many investors believe that, with e-commerce still in its earliest stages, Shopify still has room to run in the coming years. But its incredible gains so far also raise the question: Are there any stocks on the market that could put even Shopify's returns to shame?
So we put that question to three Motley Fool contributors. Read on to learn why they put New Relic (NEWR 0.12%), XPO Logistics (XPO 0.34%), and eBay (EBAY -1.83%) on their short lists of stocks capable of outperforming a five-bagger.
A promising cloud-computing play
Steve Symington (New Relic): In today's high-tech world -- especially in the world of cloud computing -- it's easy to take for granted that most things just work as intended. But that's largely thanks to businesses like New Relic, whose cloud platform offers real-time insight and performance-tracking to its base of over 15,000 customers in 101 countries.
It's latest quarterly report, released earlier this month, shows that New Relic is absolutely thriving. Revenue increased 34% year over year to $98.4 million, and adjusted earnings swung from a loss of $0.11 per share a year ago to a profit of $0.09 per diluted share, or $5.4 million. Both figures arrived significantly above analysts' average expectations for earnings of $0.05 per share on revenue of $96.3 million. And new Relic forecasts that revenue will rise another 28% in the coming fiscal year, representing only a slight deceleration in its growth.
"We attribute our continued momentum in the enterprise market to our success in helping companies solve business-critical issues including mastering the complexity of modern software, reducing the risk of service interruptions for customer-facing applications, and competing in the digital era," explained founder and CEO Lew Cirne.
To be clear, New Relic is perfectly positioned to benefit from the rapid growth of cloud computing. And as more enterprise customers realize the value that its platform brings to the table, I think its stock has plenty of room to rise from here.
Another way to play e-commerce
Jeremy Bowman (XPO Logistics): Shopify stock has been a popular way for investors to play the growth opportunity in e-commerce, and the software provider's blockbuster revenue growth shows the potential in the sector. However, I believe e-commerce will create many big winners in the stock market, and one of them, XPO Logistics, could easily outperform Shopify.
Over the last year, XPO has been the better stock to own: It jumped 106% against a 63% gain for Shopify. A specialist in last-mile delivery of heavy goods like furniture and appliances, it handles the other end of the supply chain from Shopify. As e-commerce orders continue to surge, the need for the delivery and logistics services provided by companies like XPO will only increase.
XPO has grown largely through acquisitions. It used a "roll-up strategy" to take over trucking companies, logistics services, warehouses, and technology companies en route to becoming a leader in the "less-than-truckload" heavy-item delivery segment -- an area that rivals like UPS and FedEx have shown little interest in. CEO Brad Jacobs said last year that the company had set aside $8 billion to make additional acquisitions, and in February said its next major one would come by the end of 2018.
XPO is a favorite delivery partner of retailers like Amazon, IKEA, and Wayfair, and its stock surged late last year on rumors that Home Depot might be angling to acquire it, in part to keep it out of the hands of Amazon. While neither of those deals materialized, the rumors were a reflection of the company's unique status and value.
Finally, unlike Shopify, XPO is profitable, and its adjusted net income more than doubled to $248.5 million last year, in part due to the benefits of synergies from its acquisitions. I'd expect the stock to continue its strong run as investors realize the magnitude of the opportunities ahead for the company.
A more profitable platform
Demitri Kalogeropoulos (eBay): eBay's business lacks a head-turning sales growth pace, but it makes up for that weakness with impressive finances. The e-commerce platform kicked off fiscal 2018 with a 7% revenue boost as its base of active shoppers rose by 4%. And, while that's far from Shopify's 68% revenue increase, eBay's steadier sales base generated impressive earnings and cash flow. Operating profits amounted to 23% of sales, compared to between 2% and 4% for integrated e-commerce retailers like Amazon and Walmart. eBay routinely converts a large portion of its sales into free cash, which gives management ample resources to direct toward improving the customer shopping experience and elevating the brand.
Investors should brace for more volatility in eBay's turnaround effort. Sales volumes are sluggish right now, for example, and profitability is on track to tick lower this year. But CEO Devin Wenig and his team still believe revenue growth will speed up in 2018 and deliver a second straight year of accelerating gains. Combined with aggressive stock buybacks -- and the possibility of other shareholder-friendly moves down the line, such as initiating a dividend -- eBay's returns for investors could significantly outpace the broader market over the next few years.
The bottom line
Shopify shares have set a high bar for performance over the past few years, and we obviously can't guarantee that these three stocks will outpace those gains over the next few. But given New Relic's position at the forefront of cloud computing, XPO's enviable strength in delivery and logistics, and eBay's rock-solid financials and ongoing turnaround, we think the chances are high that they'll do exactly that.