Buying and holding for decades offers investors a multitude of benefits. Those benefits include taking the emotion out of day-to-day swings in prices, the power of compounding through dividends reinvested, the simplicity of holding rather than trading, and paying less in taxes and commissions, among many others. If those benefits sound good to you and fit your investing style, three Motley Fool contributors have stocks you need to hear about: Axon Enterprise (AXON 1.24%), Discover Financial Services (DFS 0.77%), and Aptiv PLC (NYSE: APTV).
The future of law enforcement
Jeremy Bowman (Axon Enterprise): When you're looking for long-term stocks, you want to find companies with sustainable competitive advantages in businesses that will be just as relevant, if not more, down the road. One such company that fits the bill is Axon Enterprise, which is the maker of TASER stun guns and is pioneering the future of law enforcement.
Axon is the market leader in several forward-looking categories in security, including conducted electrical weapons like TASERs, as well as body cameras and its proprietary cloud-based digital evidence-management software called Evidence.com. Recent reports of police shootings have stoked greater demand for police accountability and restraint, which should fuel sales of Axon's TASER weapons and body cameras as law enforcement agencies seek less-than-lethal weapons and devices that record encounters.
Evidence.com ties the company's devices and apps together and creates both barriers to entry and switching costs that should keep law enforcement agencies within the Axon ecosystem.
Recent results have been promising, as the stock has more than doubled this year on solid revenue growth and as profitability ramps up. In its most recent quarter, revenue increased 25% to $99 million, while cloud-based revenue jumped 76% to $23 million, and the increase in sales from its cloud-based network and body cameras drove earnings up from $0.04 to $0.15. For the full year, the company sees operating margin expanding by 300 to 400 basis points.
The need for security isn't going away, and the market for it continues to expand. As that evolution plays out and technology advances, Axon should have a long trail of growth ahead of it.
A lender with an edge
Jordan Wathen (Discover Financial Services): While other card companies emphasize their focus on customers who spend heavily and pay in full, Discover has become the card company for card users who are most likely to carry a balance.
Discover's business model has its pros and cons. On one hand, relying on interest income makes it highly sensitive to economic conditions. It's true that Discover is likely to be hard hit by loan losses during economic downturns, given it doesn't have the luscious fee income that other issuers earn from cardholders who use cards simply to spend, not to borrow.
But on the other hand, Discover doesn't have to engage in the most competitive card segments to win business. While other card companies shower high spenders with rewards, Discover uses rewards sparingly, doling out the best paydays to cardholders who use the card for all of their day-to-day spending needs. In doing so, it attracts cardholders who are likely to carry a balance and stay with the company for years rather than leap to the next best rewards card.
Credit cards are an unusual corner of the financial industry. Despite robust competition, only a handful of issuers are responsible for the lion's share of spending and lending volume, and all of them have generally earned attractive returns on cards through the ups and downs of economic cycles. Discover remained profitable in every year throughout the downturn that started in 2008, something you wouldn't expect of any lender that makes its money making relatively high-risk loans at double-digit interest rates.
Go long with driverless cars
Daniel Miller (Aptiv): The benefits of driverless cars are numerous. Imagine spending the endless hours spent commuting on working, reading, catching up with a friend, or even sleeping. Driverless cars will theoretically remove human error and improve safety, reduce traffic congestion, and reduce emissions. For these reasons and many more, driverless cars will be a part of the future, and companies developing and selling the technology driving that future, such as Aptiv, should thrive over the coming decades.
Currently, many investors are shying away from the automotive sector. North America is the most lucrative and profitable auto market in the world, and it's plateauing after years of growth. That reality has weighed on many auto stocks, but there are a handful that can reward investors in spite of a downturn. Aptiv should easily exceed annual growth in global light-vehicle demand as it focuses on an emerging megatrend with driverless-vehicle technology.
The company has a portfolio of high-growth technologies that include advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS), connectivity, data services, and other electrical systems for hybrid and fully electric vehicles. Essentially, Aptiv develops the brain and nervous system of complex driverless and/or electric vehicles.
Outside of developing technology to usher in an era of driverless vehicles, it's also making critical partnerships across the industry. It's worked on a turnkey driverless-vehicle platform for automakers with Mobileye, which has since been acquired by Intel, and celebrated its 5,000th public ride in a prototype self-driving vehicle operated by Aptiv and ride-sharing company Lyft. We'll see if Aptiv can continue its strong second-quarter momentum when it reports third-quarter results Oct. 31, but if the company continues to develop innovative driverless-car solutions and create key partnerships across the industry, it should be well-positioned to reward investors willing to hold for decades.