We've officially hit the home stretch for what looks like another great year for the stock market. Since bottoming out in March 2020, the benchmark S&P 500 has been practically unstoppable. In what's become the strongest bounce-back rally from a bear-market bottom on record, the S&P 500 has delivered a total return, including dividends, of 111% since March 23, 2020.
But even with the broader market a stone's throw from an all-time high, incredible deals still abound. The following three top stocks all possess attributes that can help make you richer in December, and, most importantly, well beyond.
For you unbridled growth investors, the stock that could make you a lot richer this month and well beyond is Singapore-based Sea Limited (SE -0.51%).
Sea has had a monumental run-up since the bear-market bottom 20 months ago. Shares are up a cool 672% -- and that's after a 20% pullback from its all-time closing high on Oct. 19. With inflation picking up and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) variant concerns rearing their head, most growth stocks have taken it on the chin. But neither U.S. inflation nor COVID-19 variants are of concern to Sea Limited's three rapidly growing operating segments.
For the time being, the only division generating positive earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) is its mobile gaming unit, led by Free Fire. When the curtain closed on September, the company had 729 million quarterly active gamers.
But it's not the number of gamers that's impressive. It's that 12.8% of these gamers (93.2 million) were paying to play. The pay-to-play conversion rate for the mobile gaming industry was closer to 2% in 2020. As long as Sea is generating revenue from users at a considerably higher clip than the industry average, it should command a valuation premium.
The second rapidly growing segment is digital financial services. Though this division is still relatively nascent, the number of paying mobile wallet users grew to 39.3 million in the third quarter. Since many of the regions targeted by Sea are underbanked emerging markets, offering digital financial tools that can democratize the payment process could be a long-term game-changer.
But the third and most exciting operating segment is its e-commerce division, Shopee. Among downloadable shopping apps, Shopee consistently reigns supreme in Southeastern Asia. Between COVID-19 keeping people in their homes and middle-class consumers fueling buying activity in emerging market economies, Shopee is set up for success. In fact, its annual gross merchandise value (GMV) run-rate of $67.2 billion (based on third-quarter 2021 figures) is more than six times higher than the GMV the company reported in all of 2018.
Sea Limited could very well be one of the fastest-growing mega-cap stocks on the planet this decade.
Planet 13 Holdings
Another top stock with all the tools necessary to make investors richer in December and for many years in the future is U.S. marijuana stock Planet 13 Holdings (PLNH.F 2.98%).
Easily the biggest objection to investing in U.S. pot stocks is the fact that Congress still hasn't enacted cannabis legalization efforts. While it would make life easier for marijuana companies if the federal government would enact reforms, the vast majority of publicly traded pot stocks are primed for success if the status quo continues. With 36 states having legalized weed in some capacity, and the Department of Justice maintaining a hands-off policy, U.S. cannabis stocks like Planet 13 can bloom into successful businesses.
For the vast majority of multi-state operators (MSOs), their strategy consists of targeting big-dollar markets and planting their proverbial flag in as many states as possible. But this isn't how Planet 13 operates. It gets its competitive edge by focusing just as much on the immersive shopping experience as it does on making a sale.
For the moment, Planet 13 has just two operating dispensaries. The first is the Las Vegas SuperStore just west of the Strip. It's 112,000 square feet in size and contains a restaurant, events center, and consumer-facing processing center. In July 2021, Planet 13 opened its Orange County SuperStore about 10 minutes from Disneyland in Santa Ana, California. It spans 55,000 square feet and features a whopping 16,500 square feet of selling space.
Planet 13's stores are a must-see for cannabis tourists as well as locals. In fact, significantly reduced tourist traffic to Las Vegas during the pandemic forced the company to begin focusing on local residents. With Las Vegas tourism returning to some semblance of normal, Planet 13 now has both tourist appeal and a strong local resident following.
The company has also had quite a bit of success launching its own cannabis brands. According to Headset, via third-quarter commentary from Planet 13 CEO Larry Scheffler, Trendi comprises 5% of Nevada's vape sales, with HaHa edibles accounting for 14% of the Silver State's edible sales.
With Planet 13 on the cusp of recurring profitability and more than 50% below its February high, the time for opportunistic investors to pounce is now.
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries
As for you value investors, the top stock that can make you richer in December and beyond is brand-name and generic drug developer Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TEVA 2.08%).
Teva has dealt with a laundry list of bad news events over the five years. The company settled bribery charges with U.S. regulators, grossly overpaid for generic drugmaker Actavis, completely shelved its dividend, and saw its top-selling drug -- multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone -- lose patent exclusivity. But the biggest concern of late is the ongoing litigation Teva is facing over its role in the opioid crisis.
While these are not the types of hurdles that get leaped in a single bound, Teva's CEO Kare Schultz has done an exemplary job of getting the company back on track. Schultz is a bona fide turnaround specialist who's been with the company for a little over four years. In that time, he's reduced Teva's net debt from more than $34 billion to around $22 billion. This has been accomplished by selling off non-core assets, reducing annual operating expenses by billions of dollars, and utilizing the company's bountiful operating cash flow to pay down debt. There no question that Teva is a more financially sound company now than when Schultz was first given the reins.
Schultz is expected to play a key role in helping Teva navigate a sea of litigation, too. With the company focused on reducing debt, Schultz will aim to settle litigation with minimal amounts of cash. Instead, look for the company to offer free or reduced-price medication to states over roughly a decade as a way of potentially settling opioid litigation. It also doesn't hurt that a California trial found drugmakers weren't liable for the opioid epidemic. This puts added momentum in Teva's sails.
Over the long run, Teva should be buoyed by increased usage of generics. Rapidly rising brand-name drug list prices, coupled with growing access to healthcare services, should lift Teva's generic drug pricing power and overall sales volume.
At roughly three times (yes, three times!) Wall Street's consensus forward-year earnings per share, you'd struggle to find a more deeply discounted drug stock right now.