Have $1,000 lying around that you want to turn into more? Maybe you've just received your stimulus check from the U.S. Treasury, and you know that recessions tend to be fantastic times to buy stocks for the long term. Well, you're right. Invest your $1,000 in these three stocks right now and you could reap rewards over time.
Spotify (NYSE:SPOT) is the world's largest music and audio streaming company, with a presence in 79 markets (soon to be 80 with the launch in South Korea). As of the end of last year, the company had 271 million monthly active users (MAUs), including 124 million paying premium subscribers. Those figures grew 31% and 29%, respectively, last year.
What's special about Spotify is how much it dominates its industry despite having certain characteristics of a commodity-based business. In other words, every music streaming service basically has all the same songs. So why is Spotify so much more popular than every other service?
The answer: Spotify's product is superior to every competing service out there. How is that possible? Spotify's only business is music and audio streaming. That allows it to have an intense focus that its larger tech competitors (Apple's Apple Music, Amazon.com's Amazon Music, Alphabet's YouTube Music, and others) can't match. For example, Spotify spent $615 million on research and development (R&D) for audio streaming alone last year. The company has 2,094 employees in its R&D operation: 48% of its entire workforce. No other company has that kind of focus on this one market.
Spotify has a huge subscriber base already, but there will be over 3 billion smartphone users in markets that Spotify either operates in now or will soon enter, and they're all potential users for the service one day. That implies the company has only penetrated 9% of its market in terms of MAUs and only 4% in terms of subscribers. The runway ahead is very long, and Spotify's bargaining power and margin potential will only increase as it grows larger.
Lyft (NASDAQ:LYFT) is one of the two scale players in the U.S. ride-hailing business. The business grew revenue 68% to $3.6 billion last year and has been rapidly approaching break-even adjusted EBITDA.
The company has a long runway ahead to grow, because ridesharing represented just 1% of total vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. in 2016, according to management consultancy McKinsey. But in more deeply penetrated areas, ride-hailing's share is far greater. For example, it accounts for 13% of vehicle miles traveled in San Francisco, 8% in Boston, 3% in Chicago and Los Angeles, and 2% in Seattle. Ridesharing should only grow over time due to its lower cost and greater simplicity versus car ownership, especially in urban areas. It should also benefit from a tailwind as millennials and younger generations who are more tech savvy become an increasing proportion of the population.
Lyft is still cash-flow negative, but it's investing several hundred million dollars on newer and still-unprofitable growth initiatives like bikes and scooter rentals and autonomous technology. Considering the size of those investments and how close Lyft was to break-even cash flow last year, it's fair to conclude the core ride-hailing business is already nicely free-cash-flow positive.
The company's long-term profit margins should be attractive, too. On the ride level, each additional ride has about 50% profit margin. But management thinks that could be closer to 70% long term. Either way, more of the company's revenue should drop to the bottom line as the business grows larger.
Lyft is going through a difficult period today because so many are housebound. But it should clearly survive. And by the time we get to the other side of this COVID-19 downturn, the stock should be far higher than it is today.
Vail Resorts (NYSE:MTN) operates 17 ski resorts in North America and Australia. The company owns large and popular resorts like Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia, Vail Mountain and Breckenridge in Colorado, and Park City in Utah, among many others.
Including reinvested dividends, the company made investors over seven times their money in the 10 years prior to the stock's pre-COVID-19 peak in February. The company has demonstrated impressive pricing power with its season ski passes over the years, including the Epic Pass program, which grants avid skiers access to any of the company's resorts for one price.
But the stock has fallen 35% from its February high because the company was forced to close all of its North American ski resorts, retail stores, and lodging properties due to the outbreak. Vail Resorts has responded by cutting spending significantly, including furloughing workers, reducing salaries, deferring capital projects, and suspending the quarterly dividend for the next two quarters.
Vail's primary ski business should begin to recover next winter as we increasingly get COVID-19 under control. And once we have an effective vaccine -- likely 12 to 18 months from now -- nothing will hold back skiers from hitting Vail's slopes. In fact, investors should expect the unleashing of so much pent-up demand that Vail could see a massive recovery.