Investors looking for opportunities in the stock market sometimes focus on stocks with relatively low prices. While delving into penny-stock land is a risky approach, looking at stocks with prices in the $10 and $20 range is a different ballgame. You can easily find interesting companies with material businesses in this space, like technology provider Zuora (ZUO -1.79%), marijuana-focused Origin House (ORHOF), and diversified landlord VEREIT (VER). Here's a primer from three Motley Fool contributors on why each of these relatively low-priced stocks should be on your short list if you are looking for top stocks under $20.
Invest in the subscription economy
Brian Stoffel (Zuora): It should go without saying that the actual price of a company's stock alone is largely meaningless. That said, if I had to pick one stock under $20 to tout, it would be Zuora.
Technically, the stock is sitting right at the $20 mark as of this writing, but that's a far cry from the $35 per share it fetched in late August. But the company itself is performing very well. Zuora's goal is to help companies of all stripes transition to the "subscription economy," a term coined by founder and CEO Tien Tzuo. It does this by offering a suite of back-office accounting and billing software products tailored to subscription businesses.
When Zuora reported second-quarter earnings in September, the stock tanked. But the report itself was upbeat: revenue jumped 47%; the number of clients with annual contracts of more than $100,000 jumped to 474 -- up 63% from the end of 2016; and the dollar-based net retention rate stood at 112%.
That last metric might be the most important. When it's at 100%, it means that, all else being equal, customers stayed with Zuora. When it's greater than 100%, it means that they're adding more tools to their subscriptions as well.
While it's far from a "value" stock -- it has yet to turn a profit -- I suspect that five years from now, $20 will look like a steal for Zuora stock.
Not your typical marijuana stock
Keith Speights (Origin House): You're probably aware that most marijuana stocks are valued at ridiculously high levels. There's a lot more hype than substance, for now at least, for many of these stocks. But that's not true for every marijuana stock. Origin House is one of the exceptions.
Until recently, Origin House was known as CannaRoyalty -- a name that hinted at its earlier focus on providing capital to cannabis growers in exchange for future royalty streams. The company's new name reflects its goal to become "the home of origin for global cannabis brands."
Origin House now ranks as the top marijuana distributor in California -- which has the biggest legal marijuana market in the world. It serves more than 450 dispensaries throughout the state -- roughly 70% of California's retail cannabis locations. Origin House distributes more than 50 brands, including several of its own.
Its share price is less than $7, translating to a market cap of around $400 million. Origin House appears on track to become profitable next year and to generate revenue of $325 million in 2020. These realistic projections make Origin House one of the most attractively valued marijuana stocks around.
Origin House's growth prospects appear to be very good. The California market should more than double over the next four years. The company's acquisition of leading Canadian vape retailer 180 Smoke, meanwhile, gives it an opportunity to expand further into the Canadian recreational marijuana market.
The legal overhang is better defined
Reuben Gregg Brewer (VEREIT): Shares of real estate investment trust, or REIT, VEREIT have been hovering around $8 a share, producing an enticing yield of 7.4%. That's at the high end of the company's net lease peer group, largely because of lawsuits related to an accounting issue a few years ago. This isn't a stock for the faint of heart, but the situation isn't all that bad, either.
For starters, VEREIT has one of the largest net lease portfolios in the industry. The costs of net lease properties (like taxes and maintenance) are pushed onto lessees, so it tends to be a very stable business. The adjusted funds-from-operations payout ratio in the third quarter was a robust 76%. The portfolio is also well diversified, consisting of retail (42% of rents), restaurant (22%), office (19%), and industrial (17%) properties. Many of its peers are solely focused on retail and restaurants. And leverage is reasonable, with an investment-grade balance sheet and fixed charge coverage of three times.
The big problem is the overhang from the lawsuits, which brings uncertainty to an otherwise stable business. However, the company has settled with the holders of roughly 31% of its shares for $218 million. Assuming that's a rough number of what the costs will be across the board, VEREIT's total cost to settle this issue is likely to be less than $800 million. That's a sum it can handle, since it has a credit facility with more than $1 billion available. It won't be pretty, but it looks like VEREIT will muddle through, with more adventurous investors getting paid quite well to wait for this storm to pass.