Escalating trade tensions between the U.S. and China torpedoed many tech stocks over the past few months, and investors are likely wary of the entire sector. But today, a trio of our Motley Fool contributors will highlight three tech stocks that still have upside potential: Alibaba (NYSE:BABA), Shopify (NYSE:SHOP), and Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI).
The biggest e-commerce and cloud player in China
Leo Sun (Alibaba): Alibaba's Taobao and Tmall marketplaces make it the biggest e-commerce player in China. It also owns the country's largest cloud platform, Alibaba Cloud, while its digital media and entertainment unit hosts streaming music and video services, a movie production unit, and its UC web browsers.
Alibaba generates most of its revenue and all of its profits from its core commerce business, which grew its annual active customers 18% to 654 million in fiscal 2019. The strength of that business enabled Alibaba to grow its revenue and adjusted earnings by 51% and 12%, respectively, for the full year.
Alibaba's other three businesses -- its cloud, digital media, and innovative solutions units -- aren't profitable. Alibaba uses its core commerce business to subsidize these side bets to widen its moat against ecosystem challengers like Baidu and Tencent. These three companies, commonly known as the "BAT" stocks, are competing against each other in a wide range of markets, including advertising, streaming media, mobile payments, smart retail, AI, and driverless cars.
Alibaba expects its revenue to rise 33% in fiscal 2020, while analysts expect its earnings to grow 24%. Those are stellar growth rates for a stock that trades at about 24 times forward earnings, and indicate that it could recover quickly if a trade deal is reached.
Missed the 100% run-up? Don't worry, Shopify is just getting started
Jamal Carnette, CFA (Shopify): Could somebody tell Shopify's CEO, Tobias Lutke, there's a scary trade war afoot? The company hasn't gotten the memo, as the stock has nearly doubled in 2019 amid fear and volatility in the broader markets. Against this backdrop it's understandable investors avoid the richly valued company -- however, the long-term growth story is just getting started.
Shopify's first-quarter results bolster the bullish case. The company beat analyst expectations on the top and bottom lines by posting $320.5 million in revenue, nearly 50% higher than last year's total, and adjusted earnings of $0.09 per share versus expected losses of $0.04 per share. Additionally, the company raised both its full-year and second-quarter revenue forecast.
The long-term growth prospects are more compelling, as Shopify is well positioned to lead the ongoing shift from brick-and-mortar retailing to e-commerce (despite the perception that e-commerce is in the late stages, it is only approximately 10% of total retail sales ) and become the leading plug-and-play platform for e-commerce solutions. Ignore the short-term bearishness and focus on Shopify's long-term opportunity.
A deeply discounted video game giant
Demitri Kalogeropoulos (Activision Blizzard): Wall Street has soured on Activision Blizzard lately, and shares are now trading around 50% below the highs set in mid-2018. Some pessimism is warranted, given that the video game developer is losing gamers in many key franchises. And unlike rival Electronic Arts, it hasn't yet found a runaway entry into the booming battle royale niche.
Such a game launch could occur in fiscal 2019, or Activision might instead just focus on strengthening its established hits like Candy Crush, World of Warcraft, and Diablo. Either way, investors have a good shot at seeing healthy returns from this business as it stabilizes and returns to growth over the next two years.
Operating results edged past management's outlook last quarter, and that's a good start. The company said strong sales within Candy Crush and the new Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice helped offset the losses in franchises like Destiny and Call of Duty.
Activision reorganized its development efforts in fiscal 2018, and over the next few months investors will start to see the results of that shift. It won't be clear until the fall whether the flood of new content sets the foundation for faster growth in 2019. But if you think it's only a matter of time before the industry leader finds its footing, you might consider buying Activision shares at these discounted prices.