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3 Tech Stocks That Look Unstoppable After Earnings

Key Points

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Here's who came out on top after third-quarter earnings.

Earnings season wasn't so kind to tech stocks in the third quarter.

There have been some major collapses in the last few weeks, like Peloton InteractiveZillow GroupUpstart Holdings, and Snap, but some tech stocks are emerging from their recent reports even stronger as they've managed well through both the pandemic and the recovery. If you're looking for three great stocks to buy now, keep reading to see why Tesla (TSLA 4.73%)Alphabet (GOOG 1.56%) (GOOGL 1.61%), and Airbnb (ABNB 2.59%) all look unstoppable after delivering impressive third quarters.

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Navigating supply chain headwinds

Trevor Jennewine (Tesla): In 2008, Tesla debuted its first electric vehicle (EV), the Roadster. Only 2,500 units were produced, but that pricy sports car generated the cash flow the company needed to jump-start its disruption of the broader automotive industry. Since then, Tesla has parlayed its first-mover status into a significant competitive advantage, due in large part to CEO Elon Musk's focus on manufacturing efficiency.

In the wake of the pandemic, supply chain disruptions and semiconductor shortages have hit the auto industry hard. In the third quarter, U.S. stalwarts Ford Motor Company and General Motors saw sales fall by 27% and 33%, respectively. Similarly, German giants Volkswagen and BMW saw deliveries drop by 24% and 12%, respectively. But Tesla went the other direction. Deliveries rose 73%, and it produced a record 237,823 vehicles, up 64% from the prior year.

How is that possible? Tesla is built differently than its rivals. Specifically, it's a more software-centric automaker -- from its vehicle operating systems (updated over the air) to its full self-driving software -- and that expertise gives the company a significant edge. In this case, engineers were able to substitute alternative chips by quickly rewriting the firmware, then integrating those replacements into production.

If you're not impressed, consider this: EVs actually require 2.3 times more chips than fossil fuel-powered cars. In other words, the semiconductor shortage should have hit Tesla harder than any other automaker. Instead, it gave the company another opportunity to outmaneuver its competition and further extend its dominance.

On that note, Tesla captured 21.5% market share in terms of EV units through the first three quarters of 2021, putting it seven percentage points ahead of the next closest automaker. And while that number may slip as the industry becomes increasingly electric, Tesla's capacity to innovate should keep the company on an upward trajectory.

What's next? PepsiCo CEO Ramon Laguarta recently revealed that he expects an order for 100 Tesla Semis to be fulfilled sometime in the fourth quarter. Among other features, the Semi drivetrain is guaranteed to last 1 million miles, which translates into $200,000 in fuel-related savings over the life of the vehicle. Broadly speaking, the Semi should be another stepping stone for Tesla as it continues to displace legacy automakers.

A person holds a smartphone. Above it is a search bar.

Image source: Getty Images.

All hail the search king

Eric Volkman (Alphabet): At this point, it's entirely conceivable that no one will dethrone Alphabet as the runaway No. 1 winner in the internet search game. Many have tried -- notably Microsoft with its Bing engine -- but none have come even within striking distance of the most valuable core asset in all of tech, Alphabet's mighty Google.

Since Google is the once and probably forever top dog, it's an unavoidable destination for any entity wanting to advertise on the internet. And who, in their right mind, wouldn't want to advertise in a medium that much of the world uses on a constant basis?

Hardly for the first time, Alphabet blew past analyst estimates in its Q3. Revenue leaped 41% higher on a year-over-year basis to $65.1 billion. Net income shot even higher -- by 68% to almost $19 billion ($27.99 per share). Prognosticators following the stock were anticipating less than $63.5 billion on the top line, and a mere $23.47 for per-share net profit.

While those surges were partially attributable to advertisers coming back to Google after cutting back during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, they're still impressive for such a well-established company. 

And while Alphabet is still heavily dependent on Google's search ad business, its seemingly eternal commitment to developing powerful tech that complements its operations will continue to reap rewards. Its Google Cloud business, for example, brought in almost $5 billion in Q3, for a 45% year-over-year improvement that would be the envy of any veteran tech services provider.

There are clouds on the horizon for sure. Alphabet just lost its appeal against an antitrust ruling won by the European Union in a long-running dispute over competition in that economic bloc.

Also, last month it cut certain commissions on purchases through its Google Play store, on the back of a bruising three-party legal grudge match that's pitted video game developer Epic Games against both Apple and Alphabet over such charges.  

But these are setbacks, not existential threats, and they won't affect Alphabet's status as the undisputed ruler of the search ad space. Meanwhile, the company will find new and creative ways to branch out its revenue stream no matter the obstacles placed in its way. Sooner rather than later, we'll see more quarters full of double-digit growth figures from this ever-on-the-rise company. 

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Image source: Getty Images.

Travel is back

Jeremy Bowman (Airbnb): Just 18 months ago, Airbnb seemed on the verge of collapse. Reeling from the pandemic lockdown, the company laid off a quarter of its workforce. The entire travel industry had been crushed by the pandemic, but home-sharing, which relies on a level of trust and safety that's taken for granted in hotels, seemed especially in jeopardy. The company's expected IPO in 2020 seemed to be a nonstarter.

Then, Airbnb adapted with a set of COVID-19 protocols to ensure the safety of its listings, and its business shifted to longer-term stays outside of cities. That flexibility showed off an advantage of its platform, and its third-quarter earnings report, which featured record revenue and profit, shows how far the company has come in just a year and a half.

Revenue in the quarter jumped 67% from the year-ago quarter and 36% from Q3 2019 to $2.24 billion, which easily beat estimates at $2.05 billion. On the bottom line, the company showed off the improvements to its cost structure from the layoffs and more efficient marketing spending as it reported $1.1 billion in adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), equal to a 49% margin. Net income was $834 million, or a profit margin of 37%. On a per-share basis, the company posted a profit according to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) of $1.22, which outpaced the consensus at $0.75.

Airbnb has gone from being borderline profitable to a cash machine with margins that any company would envy. The third quarter is its seasonally strongest quarter due to peak summer travel, and margins also benefited from higher average daily rates as its business in higher-priced categories like North America and Europe and stays outside overindexed. Still, the results clearly show the power of the company's marketplace, which continues to grow its base of hosts and listings.

Nights and experiences booked were actually down 7% from Q3 2019, but should soon top pre-pandemic levels as well. The recent reopening of international travel to the U.S. should give the company a tailwind as will recent product updates, including checking the Wi-Fi speed at a prospective stay.

For the fourth quarter, it expects revenue of $1.39 billion to $1.48 billion, representing 68% revenue growth at the midpoint. Over the longer term, the tailwinds from the remote work movement and the ability to live anywhere will support the business's growth as well.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Teresa Kersten, an employee of LinkedIn, a Microsoft subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Trevor Jennewine owns shares of Airbnb, Inc. and Tesla. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Airbnb, Inc., Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Apple, Microsoft, Peloton Interactive, Tesla, Upstart Holdings, Inc., Volkswagen AG, Zillow Group (A shares), and Zillow Group (C shares). The Motley Fool recommends BMW and recommends the following options: long March 2023 $120 calls on Apple and short March 2023 $130 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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