Amazon (AMZN 0.46%) and Microsoft (MSFT 0.68%) are often considered the top stocks in the cloud market. After all, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft's Azure are the two largest cloud infrastructure platforms in the world, and both companies are leveraging their sprawling ecosystems to gain more customers.
Amazon and Microsoft are still great investments, but investors shouldn't neglect other promising plays on the public cloud market, which could grow at a compound annual growth rate of 21% between 2018 and 2022, according to Forrester Research. Let's examine four other cloud stocks that could profit from that growth: Adobe Systems (ADBE 1.73%), Veeva Systems (VEEV 0.52%), and Alibaba (BABA -1.74%).
1. Adobe Systems
Adobe offers a wide range of cloud-based software as subscription services, including its Creative Cloud services, marketing services, and analytics tools. Its Creative portfolio generates stable revenue from mainstream consumers and professionals, while its sales and marketing services lock in enterprise customers.
Changing those tools from on-premise software into on-demand services initially throttled Adobe's growth, but the multi-year transformation locked in users and eliminated its dependence on periodic upgrades. Adobe also continued to expand its ecosystem via acquisitions and partnerships: It bought Magento to challenge Shopify in 2018 and partnered with Microsoft to challenge Salesforce (CRM 0.09%) in the customer relationship management (CRM) market last year.
Adobe's revenue and adjusted earnings rose 24% and 16%, respectively, last year. Its revenue grew 19% annually in the first quarter, and it anticipates 16% growth in the second quarter -- even if the COVID-19 crisis curbs its growth in new bookings. Like many other cloud companies, Adobe can still generate steady revenue from its existing subscriptions to ride out the near-term headwinds.
Adobe's stock isn't cheap at about 36 times forward earnings, but its resilient business model, wide moat, and double-digit growth rates arguably justify that premium valuation.
2. Veeva Systems
Veeva provides cloud-based CRM, data storage, and analytics services for life science and pharmaceutical companies. It was co-founded by the former senior VP of technology at Salesforce, and its services are integrated into Salesforce's platforms.
Veeva's tools help companies keep track of customer relationships, clinical trials, government regulations, prescribing habits, and other data in real time. It enjoys a first-mover's advantage in the space and serves a growing list of top pharmaceutical companies like GSK and Novartis.
Demand for Veeva's services has surged over the past few years, thanks to escalating competition between drugmakers and the need for real-time industry information. The COVID-19 crisis could also generate tailwinds for Veeva as leading drugmakers scramble to develop treatments and vaccines.
Veeva's revenue and adjusted earnings grew 28% and 34%, respectively, last year. For the current year, it expects its revenue to rise 27% and its earnings to grow 14%. That clear guidance suggests Veeva won't be significantly affected by COVID-19.
Veeva's valuation admittedly looks frothy at 74 times forward earnings, but that premium could also be justified by its ability to grow through the pandemic.
Alibaba is the biggest e-commerce and cloud company in China. It generates most of its revenue and all of its profits from its core commerce segment, but its cloud business is growing rapidly. Alibaba's cloud computing revenue rose 62% annually to 10.7 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) last quarter, outpacing the 38% growth of its core commerce business.
The cloud unit generated less than 7% of Alibaba's revenue and remains unprofitable, but Alibaba subsidizes its growth with the profits from its core commerce business. As long as Alibaba's core commerce marketplaces stay profitable, it can expand its cloud platform with loss-leading strategies -- which will widen its moat against Tencent in China and Amazon in overseas markets.
Alibaba controlled nearly half of China's cloud infrastructure market at the end of 2019, according to Canalys. The entire market grew 67% annually during the fourth quarter of 2019, and could still have plenty of room to run as China's tech companies ramp up their big data, AI, and media streaming efforts over the next few decades.
Alibaba's revenue and adjusted earnings rose 51% and 17%, respectively, last year. Analysts expect its revenue to rise 30% with 27% earnings growth this year -- robust growth rates for a stock that trades at 24 times forward earnings. Alibaba isn't a pure cloud play like Adobe or Veeva, but its e-commerce and cloud businesses should continue growing for the foreseeable future.