Robinhood Markets operates its namesake stock brokerage platform, an app that's extremely popular with younger investors. One of the cool things Robinhood provides is a list of the top 100 stocks held in its brokerage. While this list is no longer presented in any particular order, it's still fascinating to see what the most widely held stocks are.
ContextLogic (WISH -3.34%), GoPro (GPRO 3.45%), and Zynga (ZNGA) are three consumer-goods stocks that Robinhood investors can't get enough of. These three companies have vastly different businesses, but I have a theory on why these stocks are popular: They're cheap.
But scooping up inexpensive shares isn't a winning strategy by itself, as we'll see. That's why I believe investors would be smart to ignore ContextLogic and GoPro and instead buy Zynga for the long term. Here's why.
Setting the record straight on "cheap" stocks
As of this writing, ContextLogic stock trades at around $5 per share and Zynga trades around $7.50. Until recently, GoPro also traded under $10 per share, but its most recent quarter surprised investors and caused it to spike higher. Nevertheless, it still trades around $11.50 per share and might still be considered cheap by some.
The thing is, price per share for stocks doesn't tell us anything about the true value of the company. A $100 stock could be cheaper than a $10 stock relative to the company's earnings and its long-term prospects. Moreover, a stock can split or reverse split, which would change the price per share without changing the value of the company. After all, the price per share is a function of how many shares there are.
In times past, investors might have had reasons to look for "cheap" stocks like ContextLogic, GoPro, and Zynga. But nowadays, trades are free and brokerages allow you to buy fractional shares. Therefore, you can simply invest a dollar amount without buying a whole share. And if a stock doubles, it doesn't matter whether you own a whole share or a fractional share -- your investment doubles in both cases.
To summarize, the price per share of a stock shouldn't have an effect on your investing decisions in isolation.
The struggle for ContextLogic and GoPro
Even though it's the "cheapest" of the three, I wouldn't buy ContextLogic stock today because its business economics aren't attractive. ContextLogic provides an e-commerce marketplace called Wish for companies to sell their products. And in the third quarter of 2021, the company's marketplace revenue plunged 52% year over year. But the worst part was why it fell.
ContextLogic cut Q3 sales-and-marketing expenses by 62% compared to the third quarter of 2020. On the surface, cutting costs is good. But its active buyers fell 32% year over year to 60 million during this time. This implies that ContextLogic must keep spending heavily on marketing or risk losing its users -- that's bad.
And worse than that, it still spent $147 million on marketing expenses in Q3 even after cutting it by 62%. This represents 88% of its gross profit -- an exorbitant amount of money if it ever hopes to be profitable. And let's be clear: It's not even close to profitability, having used $344 million on operating activities in Q3 alone.
Turning to GoPro, it's not struggling in the same way as ContextLogic. In fact, the company has proven it can sell cameras for a profit -- excluding a tax benefit, the company has a $38 million profit through the first three quarters of 2021. The problem is that there's been a demonstrable limit to how many cameras it can sell in a year. As my colleague Travis Hoium points out, GoPro's sales peaked in 2018 at 4.3 million cameras. To mix metaphors, it's the top dog in a small pond.
GoPro's management has tried to exercise optionality -- that desirable trait of finding new revenue streams. But between a failed media business, a drone project, and 360 cameras, nothing has caught on. Some might point to the growth in its subscription business, but these annual memberships are included with certain camera purchases, placing an asterisk on these numbers. In short, GoPro has a solid business, but it doesn't seem like it can grow into something bigger and more rewarding for shareholders.
Buy and hold Zynga
In my opinion, ContextLogic and GoPro are good examples of so-called cheap stocks that aren't worth buying. But if you're still keen on buying a stock with a low price per share, consider Zynga. Its long-term prospects are much stronger.
According to mobile app data company SensorTower, mobile games accounted for almost 66% of spending on Apple's App Store in 2020 and accounted for almost 83% of spending on the (Alphabet) Google Play Store. Therefore, mobile gaming is a huge market opportunity -- and one that mobile game developer Zynga is increasingly capturing. In the third quarter of 2021, the company generated record revenue and bookings, resulting in strong operating cash flow of nearly $100 million.
With its strong cash flow, Zynga has been busy acquiring more market share. In recent months it's acquired other gaming studios to grow its top line. And it also acquired an advertising-technology company called Chartboost. Chartboost should help Zynga navigate changes to third-party user data while simultaneously growing its advertising revenue stream.
There's more that could be said, but suffice it to say that Zynga is well positioned to profit from a large and growing market. For this reason, I believe Robinhood investors are making a smart choice by making it a top 100 stock. And it's one that investors can still buy today for a chance at market-beating returns over the long term.