If there's been a pretty consistent theme over the past decade, it's that growth stocks reign supreme. With lending rates hovering at or near historic lows, high-growth businesses have had the ability to borrow at cheap rates to continue expanding, hiring, and innovating.
But with growth stocks running circles around value stocks for such a long time, finding hidden gems or under-the-radar growth plays has become more difficult. Yet, according to Wall Street's one-year consensus price target estimates, there are currently three under-the-radar companies that could deliver sizzling returns ranging from 55% to as much as 106%.
Intercept Pharmaceuticals: Implied upside of 106%
To say that Intercept Pharmaceuticals' (NASDAQ:ICPT) journey as a publicly traded company has been wild would likely be a gross understatement. In early 2014, exciting results from its phase 2b Flint study of obeticholic acid (OCA) as a treatment for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) sent shares from the low $70s to as high as $497 in two days. Over the subsequent seven years, Intercept has given it all back -- and some!
NASH is a liver disease characterized by fibrosis that can lead to a host of complications, including death. Somewhere between 2% and 5% of the U.S. adult population has NASH and there's currently no cure or approved therapies to treat it. It's an estimated $35 billion market just ripe for disruption. That's where OCA could come into play.
In the late-stage Regenerate trial, Intercept's lead drug met one of its two co-primary endpoints, which is all that was needed to declare the phase 3 trial a success. Specifically, it achieved a statistically significant improvement in liver fibrosis without a worsening in NASH in patients.
Unfortunately, Intercept was hit with a Complete Response Letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which demanded additional safety data. The high-dose in the study (also the most effective) led to a high percentage of patients presenting with pruritus (itching). A greater number of trial participants dropped out of the phase 3 study, too, in the high-dose arm.
The thing is, even if OCA is approved for NASH and used to treat only a small subset of the sickest patients, it could still claim billion-dollar potential.
The real value proposition here is that Intercept managed to bring in nearly $313 million in Ocaliva sales last year. Ocaliva is the brand name of OCA, and it's approved as a treatment for primary biliary cholangitis. With the company sporting a $685 million market cap (close to 2 times forecasted 2021 sales), it's as if investors are getting any potential NASH upside free of charge. If Wall Street's correct, Intercept could more than double in value over the next year.
Columbia Care: Implied upside of 55%
Another high-growth stock with some serious upside potential that most investors probably haven't heard about is U.S. cannabis multistate operator Columbia Care (OTC:CCHWF). Since marijuana is illegal at the federal level in the U.S., no marijuana stocks that directly deal with the plant can legally list on any of its major exchanges. That's why you'll find a number of cannabis hidden gems, like Columbia Care, on the over-the-counter exchange.
To get the basics out of the way, the U.S. is a marijuana juggernaut. According to New Frontier Data, U.S. weed sales are expected to grow by an average of 21% annually between 2019 and 2025. If this proves accurate, we'll be talking about more than $41 billion in annual pot sales in 2025. That's a massive amount of green that's up for grabs, and Columbia Care is being aggressive in its attempt to secure as much of it as it can.
Until recently, Columbia Care was primarily known for medical marijuana cultivation facilities and dispensaries. But with 15 states giving the green light to recreational cannabis, the company has pivoted its focus to include a considerably more robust patient pool. Today, Columbia Care has 81 operational dispensaries, holds licenses to have as many as 98 open retail locations, and has a presence in 18 states. According to the company, its existing addressable market encompasses a tad over 53% of the U.S. population.
Although organic growth opportunities are driving sales higher, the company hasn't been shy about using acquisitions to expand its footprint. Last year, the company acquired The Green Solution, a leading vertically integrated pot company in Colorado, as well as Project Cannabis, a California-based cannabis wholesaler and dispensary operator. It's also in the process of buying Green Leaf, which should close in the third quarter and give Columbia Care a presence in the Mid-Atlantic region.
After generating $197.9 million in sales last year (a 151% year-over-year improvement), Columbia Care's initial forecast calls for $500 million to $530 million in full-year sales for 2021, with adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of $95 million to $105 million. Suffice it to say, there's a very good reason Wall Street is projecting 55% upside in this stock over the next year.
Root: Implied upside of 75%
If disruptive under-the-radar growth stocks are to your liking, then Root (NASDAQ:ROOT) is a company that could tickle your fancy. According to Wall Street's consensus, Root offers 75% upside over the coming 12 months.
Root is an insurance company that aims to do things different. It's predominantly focused on auto insurance at the moment, with a goal of pricing policies fairly for its customers. It does this by using proprietary technology to tap into copious amounts of data found in smartphones to understand consumers' driving habits (i.e., using a smartphones' magnetometer, accelerometer, and gyroscope). By examining factors like hard braking and abrupt turning, Root can use telematics to accurately price auto insurance policies before drivers become customers.
That's a big difference between Root and most of the major auto insurers. You see, most big auto insurers offer some form of safe-driving discount for using one of their telematics devices. But these devices come into play long after a driver has become a customer, which reduces their usefulness and the potential discount that could be passed onto the customer. Root removes the demographic factors, along with credit scores, such that only a person's driving habits determine their insurance rate.
It's a really cool concept that's still a bit wet behind the ears, and the company's operating results show it. Earned premium, as you might imagine, has been skyrocketing as the company adds new customers. But to get the Root message out, the company is having to aggressively market its product. It pulled back on marketing costs during the second-half of last year due to the pandemic, but will look to ramp things back up this year and into 2022. Not shockingly, the company is expecting an operating loss of $505 million to $555 million in 2021, which is up from a net loss of $363 million in 2020.
Still, Root is showing promise. The company's loss ratios have demonstrated improvement, and it's not just that people are driving less due to the pandemic. The company's proprietary technology, ongoing pricing tweaks, and focus on tailoring its pricing/insurance to the demands of individual states, suggests that its technology-driven insurance model could result in lower long-term accident-related losses.
It's an early stage company with plenty of risk but substantial reward.