Buying shares of high-growth companies and holding them for many years can be a great investing strategy. That's why I regularly scan the markets for stocks that promise massive profit growth in the years ahead.
I recently ran a screen using Finviz that looked for companies with the following attributes:
- Company is part of the S&P 500
- Profitable on both a trailing and a forward basis
- Has positive earnings growth over the last five years
I then sorted the list by estimated earnings-per-share growth over the next five years.
Three stocks from this list -- Adobe Systems (ADBE -0.73%), Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX -0.58%), and Abiomed (ABMD) -- immediately caught my eye. Here's a closer look at the bull case for buying each of these hyper-growth stocks.
Until a few years ago, Adobe Systems was still selling its flagship software products the same old way. The creativity software developer's decade-old licensing model worked well for many years because several of its flagship products, like Photoshop, Premiere, and Acrobat, became industry standards. However, the company ultimately decided that it needed to change its business model to take part in the cloud computing megatrend.
Adobe bit the bullet and began forcing all of its users to move to the cloud in 2012. While the decision angered many of its customers at the time, it ultimately turned into a financial windfall for investors. Moving all of its products into the cloud helped make the company's top-line growth highly predictable and eventually led to operating leverage kicking into high gear. The combination has helped drive 46% annualized growth in profits over the past five years.
The great news for investors is that market watchers believe the company's massive run won't be ending anytime soon. Current estimates call for Adobe's profits to grow in excess of 32% over the next five years. That's an awfully fast pace for a company that is currently trading around 30 times next year's earnings estimates.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals is the top dog in treating cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is a rare genetic disease that leads to recurring lung infections and eventually limits the ability to breathe. Vertex has three drugs on the market -- Kalydeco, Orkambi, and Symdeko -- that all are approved to treat different genetic variations of the disease.
While the absolute number of patients who can use Vertex's drugs is small due to the rarity of the disease the company charges high prices for its drugs, which generates a substantial amount of revenue. In 2018, Vertex is expected to grow its top line by more than 37% to about $3 billion. That number has finally gotten large enough for the company to crank out consistent profits.
Like any good biotech business, Vertex boasts a pipeline that is packed with potential. The company is seeking to expand the labeling for its approved products so they can treat a wider variety of patients. The company also has a number of new drugs in development, which includes a triple combination that looks very promising. Vertex has a lot of experience with winning FDA approval, so investors should feel good about its odds of regulatory success.
When factoring in its current product lineup and pipeline, Wall Street believes that Vertex's profits will grow in excess of 57% on an annualized basis over the next five years. While the company is certainly priced for growth -- Vertex is trading for 43 times next year's earnings estimates -- the stock could actually be a steal today if growth projections prove to be anywhere close to accurate.
Medical device maker Abiomed is on a run for the ages. The company produces a family of temporary heart pumps that have been rapidly replacing traditional technology for years. Abiomed's sales and profits have grown like gangbusters, and its stock is a 10-bagger over the last five years.
Thankfully for investors looking to get in today, there's ample reason to believe that Abiomed's amazing run can continue. The company commands a relatively small market share in the U.S., and it is still in the early innings of its growth opportunity in both Europe and Japan. Abiomed is also working to expand the labeling for its pumps. The company recently announced that it's moving forward with a pivotal trial to use its Impella pump in a common type of heart attack called an anterior ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction. Regulatory success in this indication would vastly increase the number of patients who could use the device, and would almost certainly turn into a financial windfall for investors.
The biggest knock against Abiomed is that Wall Street is pricing this business for enormous growth. Shares are currently trading for more than 65 times forward earnings and 21 times sales, a lofty expectation. However, Wall Street believes that Abiomed's profits will grow in excess of 28% on an annualized basis over the next five years. If the company can deliver on that target, then shareholders should be able to win by buying at today's price.
Are any worth buying?
I think the growth story for all three of these businesses is strong enough to deserve attention from any growth investor. However, I must admit that my favorite idea from this list is Adobe Systems. The company's financial statements are rock solid and the stock appears to be the most reasonably priced relative to its growth expectations. That's a combination that every growth investor should find appealing.