The small-cap universe features some promising growth stories. If you know what to look for, you can find some real winners to juice your portfolio's returns.
For example, Boston Omaha (BOC -2.35%) could well be the next Berkshire Hathaway(BRK.A -0.58%) (BRK.B -0.46%). Fox Factory Holding (FOXF -2.06%) is having success in meeting the growing demand for performance products for off-road vehicles. And CyberArk Software (CYBR -0.16%) is a promising play on the growing need for cybersecurity.
Following in Buffett's footsteps
Boston Omaha is a holding company that allocates capital wherever its management finds good businesses selling for attractive prices. Its current operations include advertising, insurance, and real estate. If you follow Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, that description might sound familiar. That's because Boston Omaha's co-chairperson and co-CEO is none other than Buffett's grandnephew, Alex Buffett Rozek.
Its mission of growing the company's "intrinsic value per share at an attractive rate, while seeking to maintain an uncompromising financial position," will likewise feel familiar. In their first letter to shareholders in 2015, Rozek and his co-CEO Adam Peterson stated that they don't have a fixed plan of how to achieve those goals -- their strategy is to acquire "suitable businesses as they are identified."
So far, Rozek and Peterson have found their most attractive acquisitions in the billboard business -- as of the end of 2018, Boston Omaha had invested a total of $173 million in it. That advertising niche is particularly attractive because supply is limited in most populated markets, and regulations have made adding new billboards difficult, a combination that should allow owners to increase rate. In addition, billboards don't cost much to maintain. All in all, it's a business with durable assets that should generate plenty of cash flow over the long term.
It's clear Rozek's style has been heavily influenced by his granduncle. Consistent with how Buffett reported to Berkshire shareholders for years, Rozek and Peterson start their shareholder letters each year by discussing the growth in Boston Omaha's book value, which they believe is a fair proxy for the increase in the value of the business. The stock trades at about 1.45 times book value, which is within the typical range for holding companies.
Additional acquisitions in 2018 should boost the company's earnings power. Omaha's total market cap is $486 million, and that should increase as it makes more acquisitions and boosts its book value. Plus, Rozek and Peterson own about half of the outstanding shares, which gives them plenty of incentive to do what's in the best interests of shareholders in the long run.
A high-performance growth machine
Fox Factory is a leading manufacturer of OEM and aftermarket products such as high-performance shocks and wheels for off-road trucks, bicycles, snowmobiles, ATVs, motorcycles, and other specialty vehicles. Growth has been strong, with revenue climbing at a 19% annualized rate from 2016 through 2018. So far this year, revenue is up 22%.
Most importantly, based on its stellar bottom-line performance, Fox appears to be quite well-managed. Net income more than tripled over the last five years, which helped drive the stock price up 380%.
The company's growth has been powered by rising consumer demand for its innovative, performance-defining products, and thanks to its premium brand position, it has been able to increase prices and generate healthy profit margins.
Management believes there is plenty of opportunity for growth through geographic expansion, as well as through new product categories such as parts for boats, RVs, and sports cars. Also, margins should improve as management continues to optimize its supply chain.
Fox Factory stock trades at 22 times forward earnings estimates, and analysts expect its earnings to grow and an annualized rate of 15% over the next five years. That looks like a good deal to me.
Corporate spending on cybersecurity is growing
More corporations are embracing digital strategies, cloud services, and complex tech infrastructure to manage their operations. But the more they depend on those digital solutions, the more they open themselves up to the nightmare scenarios of cyberattacks.
Israel-based CyberArk Software is a leader in security solutions that counts some of the world's largest companies, including more than half of Fortune 500, among its clients. Its core service is what's known as privileged access security, preventing unauthorized access to mission-critical business systems, such as development tools, applications, and IT infrastructure.
The stock has more than doubled in the last three years, but CyberArk's recent growth suggests that it's nowhere near hitting a ceiling yet. In the last quarter, 200 more companies signed up, bringing its total customer count to more than 5,000. This contributed to a 28% year-over-year increase in revenue.
For the full year, management is guiding for 25% revenue growth. That's particularly impressive given that CyberArk operates in a highly competitive segment. Its main risk over the long run is that cloud providers like Amazon.com and Microsoft might begin to offer competitive cybersecurity products too. So far, though, the presence of rivals isn't hurting CyberArk, which speaks to the value of its offering and the size of its addressable market.
Analysts currently estimate that CyberArk's earnings will increase at a compound annual rate of 18% over the next five years. The stock is a bit pricey at a forward P/E of 43, but if the company continues to post growth like it did last quarter, the share price will take care of itself.