It's easy to love growth stocks when the market is roaring along, but recent pullbacks should remind investors that even strong businesses will have to weather ups and downs. As famous value investor Benjamin Graham once said, in the short term the stock market is like a voting machine, but it's like a weighing machine in the long term. That wisdom holds true for growth investing as well, and companies that are able to innovate, adapt to, and shape market demands will increase their earnings and enrich shareholders.
With that in mind, we asked three Motley Fool contributors to profile a growth stock that's worth owning for the long haul. Read on to see why they identified MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI), Nike (NYSE:NKE), and Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) as companies that are primed to delight shareholders over the next 25 years.
Learning lessons from eBay
Rich Smith (MercadoLibre): It's funny you should ask about growth stocks now, because just the other day, San Francisco stockbroker BTIG came up with an interesting growth thesis for MercadoLibre -- and how just one part of that business could potentially quadruple in value over the next couple of decades.
BTIG was discussing how PayPal, which was once part of eBay, has rapidly outgrown the company that spun it off, and now carries a market cap ($100 billion) four times larger than its former parent ($27 billion). The analyst hypothesized we could see something similar happen in the relationship between MercadoLibre ("the Latin American eBay") and its MercadoPago online payments service -- which, if ever spun off, we might end up calling "the Latin American PayPal."
MercadoLibre is a fast-growing business, with sales more than doubling over the last two years, and expected to more than double again over the next two years. Payments processed via MercadoPago are growing even faster, supporting BTIG's thesis that MercadoPago could one day be worth more than all the rest of MercadoLibre combined.
Given how we've seen this story play out between eBay and PayPal in the less than 25 years since eBay was founded (in 1995), I think it's entirely reasonable to look for something similar with MercadoLibre and MercadoPago over the next 25 years.
Lace up for a long run
Demitri Kalogeropoulos (Nike): There's a refreshing predictability to Nike's sales growth that investors have appreciated for decades. It owns many of the most valuable footwear and sports apparel brands on the planet, which Nike supports through product innovation and heavy marketing spending. It then sells that gear at premium prices through its network of retailing partnerships and rewards its shareholders along the way.
That powerful approach was tested in recent years, as shifting consumer demand trends sent sales down in its core U.S. geography. But Nike has put those struggles behind it recently, and it is a stronger growth stock because of the changes it made in response to the challenge.
With a greater proportion of its business occurring directly with consumers, for example, Nike stands to lift its profitability significantly over the next few years. Its innovation platform has become quicker and more responsive to shifting tastes, too, which should make it easier to avoid big inventory buildups like the one that hurt earnings in fiscal 2017 and 2018.
These wins put Nike in a great position to capitalize on growing global demand -- both at home and in emerging markets like China -- in the coming decades.
A leading video game publisher
Keith Noonan (Activision Blizzard): The company's recent performance might make it a bit hard to believe, but Activision Blizzard remains a top growth stock for long-term investors. Shares trade down more than 40% from the lifetime high they hit earlier this year, and while investors should be aware of the threats and risk factors that are behind the pullback, the recent sell-offs are a great opportunity for anyone looking to build an investment position in the video game industry.
Amid a backdrop of market volatility, Activision Blizzard delivered news that appears to have shaken confidence in its outlook. The company unveiled a mobile take on its Diablo franchise early in November, but the game received an intensely negative reception from franchise fans and raised concerns that the video game publisher is losing touch with its audience. These concerns were amplified by the company's third-quarter results a week later, which saw revenue slip 12% year over year, earnings fall roughly 10.5%, and another significant decline for the monthly active-user base across its games.
While the reaction to the new Diablo was less than encouraging, Activision Blizzard's push to bring more of its big franchises to mobile will likely wind up broadening its player base and paying off for investors. And while some of the company's key franchises are showing signs of aging, it still has one of the best franchise portfolios in the industry and has demonstrated its ability to launch new hit properties. The publisher should continue to benefit from the market's continued transition to digital distribution and high-margin, in-game item sales. It also looks uniquely well positioned to benefit from the growth of esports and to take advantage of potentially breakthrough technologies like mixed reality.
There's always danger in trying to catch a falling knife, and Activision Blizzard's stock could continue to see negative pressure in the near term. However, long-term investors have an opportunity to purchase a good company in a growth industry at a discount.