Any growth investor also needs to be a forward-looking one. Since growth stocks are valued largely based on their ability to disrupt the market and deliver future profits as well as high growth rates, it's key for investors to evaluate these companies' ability to innovate and stay ahead of the competition.
With that in mind, we asked three of our Motley Fool investors to pick stocks that were strong bets to deliver solid growth in the future and strengthen their competitive advantages. Keep reading to see why they recommend Brookfield Renewable Partners (NYSE:BEP), American Outdoor Brands (NASDAQ:AOBC), and Axon Enterprise (NASDAQ:AAXN).
Conquering rising interest rates with superior management
Tyler Crowe (Brookfield Renewable Partners): Conventional investing wisdom says that rising interest rates will be detrimental to stocks, especially those capital-intensive businesses that need to use debt to fund new projects and assets. Under this theory, renewable energy asset owner and operator Brookfield Renewable Partners would be a company headed for a slowdown in growth. Based on management's track record, though, rising interest rates shouldn't deter you from this renewable energy stock.
Part of Brookfield Renewable's appeal as a growth investment is that management has the ability to pull multiple levers to achieve growth rates. One of Brookfield's specialties is buying distressed assets at incredibly low costs, refinancing them with its investment-grade balance sheet, and squeezing out operational efficiencies that translate to better cash flow. Taking this approach has enabled the company to achieve a compound annual growth rate of 16% since it went public back in 2000.
Investments in renewable energy globally were $325 billion in 2016, and those numbers are expected to grow as costs for solar- and wind power-generating assets continue to decline. With that much money being thrown around, there are bound to be a few distressed assets coming to the market. On top of that, the company has $700 million of its own assets under construction that will help drive the bottom line.
Maintaining such a high compound annual growth rate will be challenging for sure, and rising interest rates will likely have an impact on rates of return, but Brookfield Renewable Partners management has shown it can handle a wide variety of operating environments and deliver fantastic returns for its investors. That should give investors confidence that this renewable energy stock can remain in growth mode for some time.
By the time you hear the shot, this stock may have already hit its target
Rich Smith (American Outdoor Brands): How do you invest like a "forward-looking" investor? One way might be to look for stocks with high trailing P/E ratios (which value investors might avoid today), but low forward P/E ratios. It makes sense that as earnings improve and P/Es fall over time, such stocks might grow increasingly attractive to value investors.
And one such stock you might look to see this dynamic at work is American Outdoor Brands -- the company formerly known as Smith & Wesson.
You know the story at American Outdoor. The election of President Trump has quelled concerns of immediate gun control legislation, eliminated gun buyers' feelings of urgency to buy more guns "before they get banned," and put the kibosh on American Outdoor's sales growth. Last year, total sales were down 33% year over year, and profits are depressed as well. As a result, American Outdoor Brands stock is trading for a seemingly high trailing P/E ratio of 28.4.
But here's the thing: As sales rebound (and they certainly could, as gun buyers, and gun investors, become nervous over the prospect of Congress turning "blue" this November), analysts see earnings turning a corner this year and surging nearly 50% in 2020. Based on forward earnings estimates, American Outdoor stock sells for just a 14.4 forward P/E, and is starting to look like a good bet for forward-looking investors.
A growing security empire
Jeremy Bowman (Axon Enterprise): You may not have heard of Axon, but chances are you're familiar with its trademark product, Taser smart weapons. The brand of stun guns and related weapons makes up a majority of revenue, but the more exciting part of the company may be its body and dashboard cameras, as well as its cloud-based database of evidence that connects with that footage to help law enforcement agencies.
Axon has sprinted past expectations this year as the stock has nearly tripled, but the most exciting part may be the opportunity ahead. Many things may change over the next 25 years, but the need for security and law enforcement is not going away, and at a time when demand for gun control and outrage over police shootings are prevalent, the need for Axon's products, which can help prevent such catastrophes, only seems likely to grow.
Just this month, the company announced it sold more than 10,000 Taser smart weapons and added cities like Calgary and Honolulu to its network. Considering that Axon is the leader in such smart technologies, demand for them is likely to grow as the technology improves, and the company helps municipalities save money and fight crime, the company's growth should continue. Management sees revenue increasing 18%-20% this year, and profitability is also ramping up as it's right-sized investments. That's earned applause from investors and there should be more to come as innovations pay off.