It's been a dozen years since the end of the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009, and one class of stocks on Wall Street has led an inexorable climb higher: growth stocks.
Federal Reserve policies around quantitative easing and keeping lending rates artificially low, coupled with massive government spending programs, have created an easy-money environment that's helped fuel the growth of fast-paced businesses. These conditions show little sign of changing anytime soon, and in many respects may accelerate, which makes growth stocks a good bet to continue to outperform the S&P 500 over the next decade.
While the broad market index is setting all-time highs one day after another, one stock, in particular, seems capable of rising above the rest and could help send your portfolio soaring 50 times higher.
Since going public on May 15, 1997, at $18 per share, or a split-adjusted price of $1.50 per share, Amazon (AMZN 1.96%) has been an e-commerce juggernaut, returning over 181,700%. It is now one of the most essential and valuable businesses in existence, with a market cap in excess of $1.8 trillion.
Over more than two decades, Amazon has expanded beyond its humble origins as an online bookseller to become the internet backbone of many corporations and businesses.
Yet having achieved such remarkable gains, it's worth asking if it can continue marching skyward. A 50x gain would put its value at some $85 trillion. Possible? Absolutely!
One website to rule them all
As noted Amazon is the premier e-commerce company, with a recent report from eMarketer suggesting the retail giant could account for 41.4% of all U.S. online retail spending in 2021. That's nearly six times more than Walmart, the company with the second-greatest market share at just 7.2%, and 10 times greater than third-place eBay.
Or put another way, Amazon's share of U.S. retail e-commerce sales would still be over 50% larger than the share of the next nine companies combined.
The key to Amazon's retail success is its Prime subscriber service. It has some 200 million members and helps the retailer undercut its brick-and-mortar rival on price and buoy its razor-thin retail margins. Free delivery through the service is just the gateway to the many other services it offers while generating tens of billions of dollars in higher-margin fee revenue.
It creates incentives for members to shop on the website to get the most out of their annual fee and it has been shown that members spend more than non-Prime customers.
Dominating the cloud
The real growth opportunity to increasing Amazon's value 50-fold in the coming years is arguably its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud-based offering. Already the undisputed leader in cloud infrastructure market share, it's poised to generate over $60 billion in annual run rate revenue based on its performance so far in 2021.
AWS has long done the heavy lifting in terms of profitability for Amazon, and though its U.S. retail operations have been profitable for a few years now, the cloud services business remains its most profitable segment. Over the first nine months of this year, it has made more than $13.2 billion in operating income, or some 62% of the total.
AWS is set up to be Amazon's key generator of operating cash flow as it creates vastly superior margins to the retail or advertising arms, even though the revenue it generates is only 13% of the total.
According to estimates from Canalys, AWS accounts for 32% share of worldwide cloud infrastructure spending.
A massive growth opportunity
For a 50x return to happen, Amazon's valuation would need to grow from about $1.7 trillion to $85 trillion. While that may sound absurd on its face (remember when Dow 20,000 sounded far-fetched?), it could happen in as few as 25 years at a 16% compound annual growth rate.
While that may also sound pie-in-the-sky, between Amazon's initial public offering and today, its stock has been growing at a 38% compounded rate. So cutting that expansion rate by more than half still means it's possible, and with its dominating presence in the areas most critical to its success, Amazon.com seems to have a good chance of achieving it.