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3 Top Growth Stocks That Are Screaming Buys Right Now

By Jason Hawthorne – Sep 16, 2021 at 6:15AM

Key Points

  • One company is simplifying the service experience for all involved.
  • Another is applying technology to healthcare to transform the industry.
  • A third is looking for its second act as its pandemic-fueled growth surge wanes.

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These companies haven't traded at valuations this low in a while.

With the Nasdaq Composite still flirting with its all-time highs, investors might be surprised to find some technology stocks are actually trading at relative bargain valuations.

Zendesk (ZEN), Teladoc (TDOC -5.50%), and Zoom Video(ZM -0.88%) all have great products and sound strategies that should make them winners over the long term. Right now, though, they are in Wall Street's doghouse. And in each of their cases, I think the market is making a mistake.

A paper airplane floating on a chart up and to the right.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Zendesk

Zendesk offers software that helps organizations support and engage customers. It was created as an application for service centers that appealed to small businesses. It has since branched out into relationship management and marketing to serve larger enterprises. Everything it offers is aimed at making things simple for both customers and agents. 

It recently refreshed its Zendesk Suite, which brings together messaging, forums, analytics, and more. It appeals to enterprises, and those larger accounts make  up a growing fraction of the company's sales. In the most recent quarter, management said 35% of its annual recurring revenue was from customers that spend more than $250,000 per year with Zendesk -- more than twice the percentage at the beginning of 2017.

The shift is also enhancing the company's financial visibility. Bigger customers sign longer contracts. In its most recently reported quarter, remaining performance obligations (RPO) -- contracted future revenue -- grew 58% year over year. That outpaced the 29% growth in revenue. 

As Zendesk has expanded, it has moved closer to profitability. Its operating margin has been steadily increasing since it went public in 2014. And adjusted for expenses like stock-based compensation and relocating from San Francisco to Oakland, it was 8% for the first six months of 2021. The adjusted operating margin for the prior-year period was 6%.

A company with a great product that's winning larger customers and growing its sales backlog sounds great. But what makes Zendesk a buy now is a stock price that is a relative bargain compared to the recent past. Its one-year forward price-to-sales (P/S) ratio of 8.5 is the lowest it has been in a year.

ZEN PS Ratio (Forward 1y) Chart

ZEN PS Ratio (Forward 1y) data by YCharts

And for 2021, management expects revenue of $1.3 billion. That gives it a forward P/S ratio of less than 11 -- the cheapest it has been since before the pandemic. Compared to the broader software-as-a-service (SaaS) universe, it's a great valuation for a business with so much momentum.

2. Teladoc

The pandemic has really done a number on Teladoc shareholders. After rallying by 240% from the beginning of 2020, the stock is now 55% off its all-time high. Though the company is making progress toward creating a virtual healthcare platform that spans the continuum of care, Wall Street has decided it is old news. That's mostly because membership growth has stalled this year.

That's a short-sighted attitude. Management is in the midst of integrating two large acquisitions and has been upbeat about its pipeline of deals. Besides, almost all of the metrics that matter are trending in the right direction.

The company has been adding services to care for patients at all stages of their healthcare journeys. That should show up in customers signing up for multiple products, and should allow Teladoc to charge more per member.

On the most recent earnings call, management said more than 75% of new sales are for multiple products. A lot of that can be chalked up to Livongo, the chronic disease management company Teladoc bought last year. It's boosting the average price per member per month dramatically. In the second quarter, that number was $2.47 -- up 10% from the first quarter and 142% year over year.

The one area that should concern investors is profitability. The company's operating margin has never been positive -- it came closest last year -- and even after it doubles its revenue in 2021, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) are expected to be negative. Management projects adjusted EBITDA -- ignoring stock compensation and acquisition costs -- of $265 million at the midpoint. That's more than double 2020's $127 million.

This concern is certainly being priced into its shares. Teladoc's one-year forward P/S ratio of 8.2 is nearing the bottom of its 52-week range. 

TDOC PS Ratio (Forward 1y) Chart

TDOC PS Ratio (Forward 1y) data by YCharts

Shareholders might be in for a rough ride as the company digests its acquisitions and shifts into a mode much different than the "growth at any cost" approach of the past 18 months. Still, it's hard to imagine the healthcare industry reversing the move toward virtual care and focus on chronic disease management. Teladoc is a leader in both areas. If you want exposure to the future of healthcare, there aren't many cheaper ways to get it than buying Teladoc's shares.

3. Zoom Video

2020 was the year Zoom became a verb, as "getting together with friends and family" often meant firing up the company's video conferencing software. Its reliability and user-friendly interface won over customers and sent the stock up nearly 400% for the year. Now, though, the share price is down 51% from its peak. That might make you wonder if it is a good stock to buy now. I believe it is.

Unlike some high-growth companies, Zoom is profitable. And that's not just a consequence of the pandemic. It has been posting unadjusted profits since 2019 when it went public. This is a company that knows how to build great products and use them to generate cash for shareholders.

Wall Street once loved the stock. But now it's worried about growth. In the company's fiscal 2022 second quarter (which ended Aug. 30), revenue grew 54% year over year. That number masks a significant slowdown. Quarter-over-quarter growth for the past four quarters has come in at 17.1%, 13.5%, 8.4%, and 6.8%, respectively. That could mean the days of eye-popping growth are behind it. Like Teladoc, it's priced for the new reality. Its one-year forward price-to-sales ratio is 17.8 -- the lowest level since last August, before the winter surge of COVID-19 struck.

ZM PS Ratio (Forward 1y) Chart

ZM PS Ratio (Forward 1y) data by YCharts

Management isn't resting on its laurels. In July, it announced it would spend nearly $15 billion to acquire contact center service provider Five9 (FIVN -1.89%). It is a bold move to push further into the enterprise market.

One of the under-appreciated products from the company is its Zoom Phone -- a unified app for phone, video, and chat. It aims to replace the traditional telephone network running on internal infrastructure with a cloud-based application. Adding Five9's intelligent cloud contact center gives the company an integrated offering that could appeal to large corporations. 

CEO Eric Yuan sees the deal combining best-in-class video and contact center solutions -- something big companies, which interact with their customers mostly through contact centers, will appreciate. Although there are several large incumbents like Cisco and Avaya in the market, it's an estimated opportunity of $24 billion. That's enough room to kick-start Zoom Video's growth. When it does, Wall Street just might fall in love with the stock all over again.

Jason Hawthorne owns shares of Teladoc Health and Zoom Video Communications. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Five9, Teladoc Health, Zendesk, and Zoom Video Communications. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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