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3 Top Cloud Computing Stocks to Buy Right Now

By Nicholas Rossolillo - Apr 1, 2021 at 9:00AM

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Tech stocks are beaten down, but the cloud is still a secular growth trend.

After an epic run in 2020, many cloud computing stocks were bludgeoned in March. Sure, many of them were long overdue for a breather, but that doesn't change a simple fact: Cloud-based services are the future and will continue growing at a rapid pace for years to come. For investors with a long-term mindset (at least a few years, but the more, the better), this recent sell-off is but a buying opportunity.

To that end, Bandwidth (BAND -5.05%), LiveRamp Holdings (RAMP -2.22%), and salesforce.com (CRM -3.91%) are great buys right now. Here's why.

Bandwidth: The future of communications is the cloud

The 2010s were all about mobility. Mobile networks and smartphones making use of them turned into basic staples. But something interesting happened during the pandemic last year: While mobility was more important than ever during lockdowns and social distancing, cloud-based communications also gained serious traction among consumers and businesses alike.

Zoom Communications (ZM -6.87%) has of course become the name synonymous with this movement. A lesser-known name here is Bandwidth, which counts Zoom among its customers along with other big tech names, including Microsoft (MSFT -4.78%), Alphabet (GOOGL -3.93%)(GOOG -3.69%), and Cisco Systems. Bandwidth helps companies embed voice, messaging, and emergency call features into their software services. Suffice to say, it had a pretty good year in 2020. Total sales grew 48% to $343 million -- including an 82% year-over-year increase to $113 million during the fourth quarter alone.  

Granted, $17.5 million of this Q4 revenue was attributable to Voxbone, the corporate contact center and enterprise-grade voice and messaging software company Bandwidth acquired on Nov. 1. Excluding Voxbone's contribution, Bandwidth grew by "only" 54% from the year prior. Nevertheless, adding Voxbone's software outfit to its own is highly complementary and will build on the company's ability to attract new customers looking to give their operations a shot of modern cloud-based communications.

The economy is starting to gradually reopen, but that doesn't mean the need for Bandwidth's cloud-based subscription service is going away. Management forecasts that revenue will increase another 35% in 2021. The modern consumer wants flexible ways to stay in touch on their terms, and businesses are scrambling to meet those needs. As corporate budgets start to thaw this year, I expect Bandwidth will pick up plenty of new interest in its platform. And at just six times expected 2021 sales and on the cusp of generating positive free cash flow (free cash flow was -$10.1 million last year), this looks like an affordable growing cloud computing stock right now.

Three office workers standing around a computer monitor.

Image source: Getty Images.

LiveRamp Holdings: Growth despite a fast-shifting digital advertising industry

LiveRamp is another affordable cloud computing stock after tumbling more than 40% from its all-time highs. Shares trade for under eight times trailing-12-month revenue, and though it's facing challenges this year as it closes down some of its legacy digital advertising business, the company is still forecasting 10% growth during its fiscal 2021 fourth quarter (the three months ended March 31) and an initial outlook for 10% to 15% growth in fiscal 2022 (the 12-month stretch ending in March 2022).  

LiveRamp operates a platform for marketers to access anonymized consumer data. As Apple (AAPL -5.64%) and Google close down cookies -- device and website activity tracking advertisers use to target specific ads to consumers -- parts of the software industry are grappling with how to monetize their creations. LiveRamp ATS is a cloud-based exchange that allows individuals to control their privacy settings but also allows publishers and marketers to exchange data. In a shifting digital marketing industry that is starting to give some much needed attention to personal digital information rights, LiveRamp offers a compelling solution for software developers looking for new ways to make money, too.  

The only problem is the expected slowdown in LiveRamp's growth in the next year, but the big pullback has now accounted for that issue. This cloud company is also in exceptional financial shape. It had $663 million in cash and equivalents and no debt at the end of 2020, and it used some of that liquidity to purchase smaller peer DataFleets to strengthen its ad platform. Like Bandwidth, this small cloud company is also nearing breakeven. Free cash flow was only -$6.3 million over the last trailing 12 months, although it operated at a free cash flow profit margin of 12% during its last reported quarter.

Contending with Apple and Google's activity-tracking changes will be a serious challenge. LiveRamp is nevertheless in good shape and could pick up lots of new business in the next few years as publishers look for a trusted partner to navigate the new digital marketing landscape. The recent sell-off looks like a good opportunity to buy more.

Salesforce: The pioneer of the cloud on sale

Salesforce was an early pioneer of software services delivered on the cloud, and the company is now one of the largest enterprise software providers around. The company expects to haul in over $25 billion in revenue this year, implying a 21% year-over-year increase, and has an ambitious goal to reach $50 billion by calendar year 2025. If Salesforce can pull it off, I say shares going for nine times trailing 12-month sales and 47 times trailing 12-month free cash flow is a value.  

Critical to Salesforce's ability to make this aggressive goal a reality is a looming showdown with Microsoft. Salesforce is in the process of acquiring remote work and collaboration tool Slack (WORK), which goes head-to-head with Microsoft Teams. However, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has said Slack will help his company build the "operating system for the future of work." Clearly, this scrappy cloud computing outfit has its eye not just on growing rapidly, but also on catching up to Microsoft, one of the largest organizations on the planet.

Overly optimistic? Perhaps. But Salesforce has a long track record of delivering on its outlandish-sounding goals. And along the way, it's turned a steady stream of acquisitions into a highly profitable cloud computing platform fueling digital transformation -- updates to more modern IT infrastructure like the cloud -- for businesses around the globe. Tech researcher Gartner expects digital transformation spending to tally into the trillions of dollars within the next few years. Salesforce's outlook doesn't look so crazy when viewing it through this lens.  

Salesforce stock has also been in a downward slide since the announcement of the Slack acquisition. Shares are down 27% as of this writing from the all-time highs notched last autumn. But the decline won't last forever if the company continues its pace of 20%-plus revenue growth. Shares are worth scooping up right now.

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Stocks Mentioned

salesforce.com, inc. Stock Quote
salesforce.com, inc.
CRM
$157.33 (-3.91%) $-6.40
Microsoft Corporation Stock Quote
Microsoft Corporation
MSFT
$254.08 (-4.78%) $-12.74
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
GOOGL
$2,237.99 (-3.93%) $-91.47
Apple Inc. Stock Quote
Apple Inc.
AAPL
$140.82 (-5.64%) $-8.42
LiveRamp Holdings, Inc. Stock Quote
LiveRamp Holdings, Inc.
RAMP
$25.08 (-2.22%) $0.57
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
GOOG
$2,248.02 (-3.69%) $-86.01
Bandwidth Inc. Stock Quote
Bandwidth Inc.
BAND
$19.00 (-5.05%) $-1.01
Zoom Video Communications Stock Quote
Zoom Video Communications
ZM
$84.69 (-6.87%) $-6.25
Slack Technologies, Inc. Stock Quote
Slack Technologies, Inc.
WORK

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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