While there aren't quite as many cryptocurrencies as there are stocks to choose from, many people don't realize that there are over 1,000 different ones in existence. Bitcoin, of course, is the most well-known of the bunch, but even its notoriety doesn't mean you should invest in it.
Its meteoric rise and equally dramatic fall is something stock investors are quite familiar with, particularly when it comes to companies whose story is simply too good to be true. Cryptocurrencies may yet prove their value, but in the meantime, investors can do better by staying closer to home with equities.
We asked three Motley Fool investors to identify a company they consider to be much a better value than digital money. They chose salesforce.com (CRM -5.43%), Zoetis (ZTS -2.00%), and XPO Logistics (XPO -3.79%) as the top alternatives to any cryptocurrency available.
If you believe in cryptocurrency, you believe in software
Nicholas Rossolillo (Salesforce): Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff has consistently exceeded expectations over the years. His company has gone from a provider of simple relationship management software to a developer of a full suite of enterprise solutions for sales, marketing, commerce, and more.
Salesforce has grown organically with services developed in-house, but key acquisitions have also been a big boost along the way. The latest purchase was a software company called MuleSoft, which helps organizations connect apps, data, and devices into one place to improve visibility and functionality. That dual strategy has produced a better than 200% increase in revenue over the last five years.
Under Benioff's leadership, that run will likely continue. Over the next 15 years, the company is targeting another 500% increase in sales as it pushes for $60 billion in annual receivables. That would make Salesforce one of the largest technology companies in the world. New services will likely need to be started or acquired for that to happen, but if track record is worth anything, I wouldn't bet against the company.
Speaking of new services, Benioff also said that Salesforce is getting into blockchain. More details are forthcoming this fall, but that's yet another reason to buy Salesforce instead of cryptocurrencies.
Animal health is big business
Maxx Chatsko (Zoetis): Just to be clear, I don't think all cryptoassets are a waste of an investment. But most investors would probably feel better owning an industry leader such as Zoetis, the world's largest supplier of medications and vaccinations for pets and livestock. It's an easy market to overlook, but our domesticated friends need healthcare, too. It's an especially important service for ranchers and breeders, who rely on the health of their animals for their livelihood.
The importance of the niche shows up in the $40 billion company's stock performance and financial filings. Shares of Zoetis have absolutely clobbered the returns of the S&P 500 since its spinoff from Pfizer a little over five years ago. The stock has delivered total returns of 179% in that span, compared to the index's 101%.
How does the company make things look so easy? A quick look at first-quarter 2018 results provides the answer. Zoetis' revenue increased 11% to $1.4 billion compared to the year-ago period. The business converted $352 million of that into net income, which was 48% higher than in the same quarter in 2017. The good times are likely to continue.
For 2018, management expects revenue of $5.74 billion and earnings of $2.85 per share, both taken at the midpoint. That represents year-over-year growth of 8% and 63%, respectively. Considering Zoetis owns a diverse portfolio of products spread across a diverse geographic footprint in an important (and often overlooked) industry, this is a solid long-term stock for any portfolio.
Keep on trucking
Rich Duprey (XPO Logistics): There's a shortage of truck drivers, and that's causing the cost of shipping to rise. Amazon.com just hiked its Prime membership fees 20% in part to cover the cost of the free, two-day shipping it offers. It spent nearly $22 billion on shipping last year. And General Mills just warned the cost of its cereals was going to go up because of an "unprecedented" increase in freight costs.
That's precisely why XPO Logistics should be a better investment than any cryptocurrency you might be considering. Not because the logistics and transportation giant will gain directly from the higher costs (which it will), but because of its new, novel program to help businesses offset the rising cost of distribution and delivery.
As an alternative to a company building out its own distribution centers, XPO says it will offer multiple customers simultaneous access to its network of warehouses and last-mile hubs to use as distribution points and flexible stockholding sites. They will then be able to use its fleet of trucks and trailers to deliver their products to customers.
Since last-mile delivery is a critical component of staying competitive, sharing space and using a readily available fleet of trucks will be cheaper in the long run. And XPO gets the benefit of having its facilities and trucks operating at optimal capacity.
Over the past decade, XPO Logistics has grown 2,170%, and though bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies may be hot now, they could be just a flash in the pan compared to the logistics giant's proven performance and staying power.