Bitcoin (BTC 0.95%) has been on fire in the past year, rising from around $6,700 in early April 2020 to just shy of $60,000 today. While this jump is nothing short of phenomenal, this investment also comes with high volatility. Bitcoin is not backed by any stable asset. The regulatory and taxation frameworks for cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, are also in their nascent stage. In short, Bitcoin might not suit every investor -- and that's okay.
Luckily, investors who are wary of the risks can instead find high returns by investing in two top-notch growth stocks riding long-term secular trends -- Apple (AAPL -0.41%) and Scotts Miracle-Gro (SMG -0.80%) -- without exposing their portfolios to excessive volatility.
Apple's first-quarter results (quarter ended Dec. 26, 2020) were stellar. The largest public company in the U.S. reached an all-time high in quarterly revenue of $111.4 billion, driven by the dramatic demand for the 5G-enabled iPhone 12 lineup. iPhone 12 became the top-ranking 5G smartphone in the world within two weeks of its launch. This tailwind is far from over, and the smartphone upgrade supercycle will now be a multi-year growth story for Apple.
Wedbush analysts' channel checks have revealed that Apple has not reduced its iPhone production rate despite the company historically reducing manufacturing based on seasonality in the second and third quarter of the fiscal year. Instead, they expect the iPhone production rate to be in the range of 56 million to 62 million in the second quarter, and around 45 million in the third quarter.
In the first quarter, Apple shipped more than 90 million phones and recorded iPhone sales of $66 billion. Wall Street is now expecting Apple to ship 220 million iPhone units in fiscal 2021. Wedbush analysts estimate this number to be even higher, close to 250 million units for fiscal 2021. Apple is expected to dominate the 5G smartphone landscape with a market share of 35% at the end of 2021. .
There is also a high possibility of the iPhone 13 launch in October 2021. Apple is expected to build an initial supply chain order of 100 million units for the iPhone 13, even more than the initial 80 million build order for the iPhone 12. Apple expects the 5G-driven device replacement trend to pick up even more strength in fiscal 2021.
A major differentiator between Apple and most other smartphone manufacturers is its relative resilience to chip shortages. The company's self-designed M1 chips are manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing. While Apple is able to make the most of the 5G-smartphone demand, the second-biggest smartphone player and leading chip manufacturer, Samsung, may need to delay even the new Galaxy Note refresh to 2022.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has also succeeded in nurturing a deeply loyal customer base with the Apple ecosystem of products and services. This has allowed for multiple cross-selling opportunities as well as pricing power.
Apple has a rock-solid balance sheet, with cash of $196 billion significantly exceeding total debt of $112 billion at the end of December 2020. The company has sufficient funds to not only face any rough times but also to continue investing in organic and inorganic growth initiatives. The company also returned $30 billion dollars to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks in the first quarter. With trailing year operating cash flows of $89 billion and a solid balance sheet, the company can continue to return value to shareholders in 2021.
Despite the many solid tailwinds and an envious financial standing, Apple is trading around just seven times sales. With a loyal customer base, solid brand power, and impressive pricing power, this reasonably priced tech stock can continue to be a solid 5G and tech play for many more years to come.
2. Scotts Miracle-Gro
Scotts Miracle-Gro is a pick-and-shovel play in the cannabis sector. While the company's main business involves manufacturing and selling gardening and lawn care products, Scotts-Miracle Gro also sells hydroponics systems (which allow growers to cultivate plants without soil) through its subsidiary, Hawthorne, to licensed cannabis producers. Hawthorne houses 45 brands catering to various aspects of hydroponics such as lighting, growing media, growing environment, nutrients, and hardware.
Legal cannabis sales in the U.S. skyrocketed by 46% year over year to $17.5 billion in calendar year 2020. Much of this growth came from sales of recreational cannabis, which is currently permitted in 16 states plus the District of Columbia. Medical cannabis use is now legal in 36 states. With more states gearing up to legalize recreational cannabis and people consuming more cannabis than ever, the demand for cannabis cultivation has shot through the roof. In a bid to improve margins, licensed cannabis producers are now increasingly using hydroponics systems for indoor cultivation instead of the more real-estate-intensive outdoor cultivation method. Scotts Miracle-Gro's CEO Jim Hagedorn identified the potential of this multi-year tailwind far back in 2016.
Scotts Miracle-Gro delivered solid results in the first quarter of fiscal 2021 (ended Jan. 2). The company's revenue soared by 100% to $748.6 million, while the company scored its first-ever profitable quarter with net income of $22.2 million. Hawthorne's revenue grew 71% year over year to $309.4 million, while the U.S. Consumer segment (core consumer lawn and gardening business) rose by 147% to $408.8 million. The pandemic has proven to be a net positive for the company, as more people quarantined at home took up gardening as a hobby.
To ensure that these projects are not abandoned in the post-pandemic period, Scotts Miracle-Gro has been engaging with targeted customer demographics digitally. The company is also leveraging analytical capabilities to time its promotional messages for maximum impact.
Scotts Miracle-Gro offers an attractive combination of a stable, mature gardening business and a high-growth cannabis supplies business. The company also pays a dividend yield of about 1%. This stock is one of the least volatile plays in the cannabis sector and can continue to soar higher in the coming years.