In a little over two weeks, the curtain will close on what should go down as another winning year for the stock market. Through this past weekend, the broad-based S&P 500 had gained 25%, which is more than double its average annual total return, including dividends, of 11% over the past four decades.

But for some ultra-popular stocks, their growth period is just beginning. According to Wall Street's consensus estimate, three widely followed companies are expected to deliver sales growth in 2022 ranging from a low of 981% to as much as 5,569%.

A rising green line and ascending bar chart set atop a financial newspaper with visible stock quotes.

Image source: Getty Images.

Sundial Growers: Consensus estimate of 981% sales growth in 2022

The first ultra-popular stock expected to deliver a more than tenfold increase in revenue for the upcoming year is Canadian marijuana stock Sundial Growers (SNDL -3.70%). Wall Street has Sundial pegged to bring in almost $540 million in sales in 2022, up from an estimated $50.5 million this year.

Cannabis is a rapidly growing industry, and Canada was the first developed country to give adult-use weed the green light. Since the Oct. 17, 2018, legalization of recreational pot, legal weed sales have been on a fairly steady incline.

Unfortunately, Canadian licensed producers (LPs) have fared poorly. National and provincial regulators have been slow to authorize growing and retail licenses, and the LPs themselves did a poor job of managing their assets, budgeting their cash, and assessing the actual demand for pot products.

The reason Sundial is expected to deliver such a sizable jump in revenue next year has everything to do with acquisitions and virtually nothing to do with organic growth. In July, Sundial closed a cash-and-stock deal to acquire retailer Inner Spirit Holdings. It's also in the midst of purchasing liquor store chain Alcanna (LQSIF) in an all-stock deal that was initially valued at $346 million.  The Alcanna buyout, should it close, will represent the bulk of Sundial's sales boost in 2022.

While I understand that some investors are fascinated by penny stocks and believe they offer more upside potential than established companies with higher share prices, this rarely turns out to be the case. Sundial, whose shares could be purchased for less than $0.59 as of this past weekend, has been burying its investors under the weight of new share issuances for 14 months and counting. The company has issued approximately 1.6 billion new shares over that time, and rather than utilize its cash to acquire Alcanna, the company intends to issue another 387.3 million shares. In other words, Sundial could be weeks away from having 2.5 billion shares outstanding.

With so many shares outstanding and cannabis operations that have gone nowhere in years, Sundial's chance of generating a meaningful per-share profit is pretty much zero. At this point, a reverse split might be the only thing that'll save this "growth stock" from delisting.

A physician administering a vaccine into the upper-right arm of a patient.

Image source: Getty Images.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals: Consensus estimate of 3,258% sales growth in 2022

Another ultra-popular company that's expected to deliver jaw-dropping sales growth next year is clinical-stage biotech stock Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO 0.25%). Wall Street anticipates Inovio will see sales skyrocket from a consensus of just $7.4 million this year to almost $126 million in 2022. That's an increase of well over 3,200%.

Though Inovio has an extensive pipeline that covers infectious diseases, cancer, and human papillomavirus-targeted diseases, Wall Street's aggressive sales growth estimate appears to be tied to the company's development of a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine.

At the moment, Inovio has two COVID-19 candidates in development. INO-4800 is the furthest along, with phase 3 global studies under way via the Innovate trial. The other is INO-4802, a preclinical "next-generation" COVID-19 vaccine targeted at major variants of the disease. 

While Inovio looked as if it would be one of the first drugmakers to reach late-stage clinical trials in the U.S. last year, everything came crashing to a halt when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) placed a partial clinical hold on INO-4800 and the company's proprietary hand-held delivery device, Cellectra in September 2020. This partial hold on phase 3 trials was only lifted last month. Thus, for 14 months, Inovio couldn't advance its COVID-19 vaccine to late-stage trials in the U.S. and was forced to take its large-scale study overseas. 

Perhaps the bigger concern for investors is that Inovio Pharmaceuticals has never brought a drug to pharmacy shelves. As noted, Inovio is never hurting for promising preclinical and clinical candidates. But more than four decades after its inception, Inovio still doesn't have a way to generate recurring revenue. Though it's possible INO-4800 joins a crowded field of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, history suggests disappointment is the more likely outcome.

A rendering of the Nikola Tre semi-truck crossing a bridge.

The all-electric Nikola Tre. Image source: Nikola.

Nikola: Consensus estimate of 5,569% sales growth in 2022

However, the biggest growth opportunity, at least on this list, comes from electric vehicle (EV) and fuel-cell EV manufacturer Nikola (NKLA 8.37%). The expectation is for Nikola to grow revenue from an estimated $2.6 million in 2021 to about $148.5 million next year. That's an increase of more than 5,500%.

Developed countries are going to take whatever steps they can over the coming years and decades to combat climate change. One of the easiest and most visible ways to reduce our carbon footprint is to go green with EVs. Replacing consumer and commercial vehicles is a multidecade process that could very well allow a dozen or more new automakers to shine. Nikola, which primarily targets enterprise fleets, is aiming to be one of those transformative businesses.

The boost in sales for Nikola is almost certainly the result of landing two agreements in October. The company secured a letter of intent from PGT Trucking for 100 Nikola Tre heavy-duty fuel-cell EVs, and formed a collaboration with TC Energy to develop hydrogen hubs for the refueling of hydrogen-powered heavy-duty trucks. 

But for all the positive news and momentum in the sails of the EV industry, Nikola has been shrouded by a dark cloud. It began last year, when noted short-side firm Hindenburg Research alleged Nikola was a fraud. Although many of Hindenburg's claims would be proved untrue by an independent review, certain allegations, including Nikola's pre-sell figures, were deemed to be inaccurate. This led the Securities and Exchange Commission to probe the company.

Additionally, founder Trevor Milton, who stepped down last year, was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice this past July for making false and misleading statements to retail investors. 

What excitement did surround Nikola has long since disappeared as investor trust in the company has been decimated. It's also not clear if Nikola has anywhere near enough capital to ramp up production.

Long story short, the lesson from this stock trio is that rapid sales growth often doesn't tell investors the full story.