For the past 13.5 months, the stock market has been on fire. Following an unprecedented level of panic caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, all three major U.S. stock indexes have soared. But none has done better than the growth-centric Nasdaq Composite, which at one point was up as much as 106% since the March 23, 2020, bear-market bottom.
Yet it's the Nasdaq 100 that garners most of the attention on Wall Street. The Nasdaq 100 is a compilation of the 100 largest non-financial companies listed on the Nasdaq exchange. As you can imagine, it's heavily focused on growth and tech stocks.
You might be of the opinion that values are hard to come by in the Nasdaq 100, given how much the index has rallied since March 2020 -- but you'd be wrong. According to Wall Street's one-year consensus price targets, the following three Nasdaq 100 components offer upside ranging from 61% to as much as 82%.
Zoom Video Communications: Implied upside of 62%
Arguably the best-known name offering one of the biggest perceived discounts in the Nasdaq 100 is web conferencing giant Zoom Video Communications (NASDAQ:ZM). If Zoom were to hit Wall Street's 12-month price target of $478, it would offer up to 62% upside for investors.
A strong case can be made that no company more directly benefited from the pandemic than Zoom. The closure of traditional workplaces meant businesses had to lean on cloud-based conferencing technology to run meetings, innovate, and keep projects on track. The $2.65 billion Zoom generated in full-year sales in 2020 (up 326% year over year) was essentially three times what the company had initially forecast it would bring in for the year, prior to COVID-19 being declared a pandemic.
As I've previously pointed out, Zoom's success has long hinged on its freemium hook. Zoom offers a free version of its web conferencing solution that's been successful in luring businesses to buy a subscription. Once enterprises see how web conferencing can improve operating efficiency, they're hooked.
Zoom has been particularly successful in bringing in small and medium-sized businesses as customers. Even though businesses that generate more than $1 million in annual recurring revenue get all the attention on Wall Street, it was the 470% increase in customers with at least 10 employees from the prior-year period that really stood out in Zoom's fourth-quarter report.
The bottom line is that Zoom controls an estimated 40% of the U.S. web conferencing market, per Datanyze, and it's unlikely businesses will cut back on usage, even when life returns to some semblance of normal. The operating efficiency Zoom's solutions bring to the table makes it a good candidate to head higher over the long run.
Splunk: Implied upside of 61%
Another Nasdaq 100 company with some serious implied upside is data analytics company Splunk (NASDAQ:SPLK). If analysts are correct and Splunk hits nearly $190 a share over the next 12 months, it'll work out to a 61% return for investors.
Whereas most high-growth stocks have been unstoppable over the past year, Splunk has been struggling since December. In each of its last two earnings reports, the company has failed to impress Wall Street or investors. That's because it's in the process of transitioning to a cloud-based data monitoring/applications business from one that focused on on-premises solutions. Future growth prospects are most definitely in the former, but the brutal truth is that the gross margin was better with the latter. As a result, Splunk's projected losses have widened, and its sales growth has slowed considerably.
But it's not all bad news if you have a long-term mindset. If you look past Splunk's modest sales growth and toward annual recurring revenue (ARR) from subscriptions, you'll see a far different story. Subscription revenue is recognized over time (i.e., slower), relative to licensing contracts for on-premises monitoring solutions that were recognized upfront. For full-year fiscal 2021, total revenue declined by 5%, but ARR jumped 41%. Moreover, cloud revenue was up 77% to $554 million, with licensing revenue taking a backseat to cloud/maintenance sales for the first time ever. These figures suggest that patient investors are on pace to be rewarded handsomely.
Splunk has also done well with regard to attracting larger enterprises. It finished its fiscal year with 510 clients generating at least $1 million in ARR, up 44% from the previous year. It's tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel through the near-term underperformance, but Splunk's strategy shift is a smart move that should begin paying off in the years that lie ahead.
Baidu: Implied upside of 82%
But when it comes to opportunities within the Nasdaq 100, no company looks to offer more upside than China-based Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU). Wall Street's one-year consensus estimate has Baidu rising to almost $348 a share, which represents an 82% upside from where it closed the previous weekend.
The crazy thing is that Baidu was nearly worth $348 a share back in mid-February. It's since fallen off a cliff amid the sweeping sell-off for tech stocks, as well as from growing tensions with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). For example, the SEC began implementing the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act in March. This law, passed under the Trump administration, requires certain companies to submit documents to prove they're not owned or controlled by a foreign government. There are clear concerns that Baidu could be delisted or choose to voluntarily delist itself to avoid this new law.
But like Splunk, there's a lot to like if you dig beyond the surface-scratching white noise. China's leading internet search company controlled a 72% share of the market in April 2021, according to GlobalStats. Though its share has fluctuated a bit over the trailing year, it's not dipped below 65%. The steady digitization of China's economy will help Baidu's foundational operating segment to thrive.
However, Baidu is about much more than just internet search dominance these days. The company is investing heavily in artificial intelligence via cloud services, autonomous driving, and smart transportation, to name a few opportunities. AI growth is the primary reason fourth-quarter sales were up 5% for Baidu.
If you're looking for a way to play AI growth, don't discount Baidu.