Just over two years ago, the world went on lockdown -- and it's unlikely to be the same ever again. Remote work (or a hybrid model of remote and in-office) is here to stay because of the pandemic.
With extreme stress, though, comes resilient change. Because of advances in internet technology and cloud-based software services, many industries were ready for the change to more remote work. Some, like creative work, have even thrived thanks to companies like Adobe (ADBE -0.19%), Unity Software (U -0.38%), and Nvidia (NVDA 1.45%). Here's why these three stocks look like a great buy right now for the long haul.
Adobe: The slow and steady stalwart in creative software
Adobe has faced hardship before in its multi-decade history. It survived the pop of the dot-com bubble, it endured the Great Recession of 2008-2009, and it successfully navigated the challenge of going from traditional software to cloud-based services in the 2010s. Now Adobe is facing a new threat: The transition from nimble software technologist to massive industry stalwart. As investors come to terms with Adobe being a big and slower-growth company, its stock has taken a hit.
But slower growth doesn't mean no growth. Adobe's vast toolbox for creative-types and enterprise "digital transformation" addresses a massive market. In spite of its size, management expects it will grow revenue by a mid-teens percentage rate in 2022. Granted, it appears earnings per share may take a temporary hit as Adobe pauses sales to Russia and is affected by regional turmoil related to the invasion of Ukraine. Nevertheless, this remains a preeminent name for creative software and document management solutions -- industries that are still enjoying brisk expansion.
After its recent tumble, Adobe stock trades for 31 times trailing 12-month free cash flow. It still doesn't exactly qualify as a "value" stock by traditional standards. But given Adobe's enduring growth story -- and an operating margin of 37% over the last 12-month stretch -- the stock looks like a timely buy if you plan to hold for at least a few years.
Unity Software: The up-and-coming toolbox for 3D design
Speaking of cloud-based creative software, Unity was a hot IPO in 2020. Shares have been stuck in an up-and-down ride ending nowhere since then, but this remains a promising name to stay invested in.
The metaverse (or metaverses) has been a hot topic in recent months. Basically, the digital world is going 3D and will offer a more immersive experience in the future. That goes for video games -- which happen to be Unity's bread-and-butter -- and also for workplace tools and services. Unity's creation engine for 3D design has application here as well. Engineering firms, manufacturers, and filmmakers are all making use of the design and collaboration software suite.
Unity's revenue increased 44% in 2021, and management forecasts it will rise about another 35% in 2022. 3D design and creation of immersive digital experiences is clearly a big opportunity, so Unity is intentionally operating at a slight loss or close to breakeven to gain market share. The outlook for adjusted operating profit margin is negative 3% this year. It's all about expanding now, profiting later.
For many investors, a company that burns up cash off its balance sheet is a no-go. But for those who like the growth trajectory, I say temper expectations and invest in Unity and a stock like Adobe to act as a counterbalance. This is an exciting business, and it now trades for 14 times expected sales this year. It isn't cheap, but that's half the multiple it traded for just months ago. If you think the next decade is promising for Unity Software, now looks like a buying opportunity.
Nvidia: A case study in creativity innovation
Let's pivot from software for a minute. Nvidia is a semiconductor company, one with roots in video games. In fact, as video games have become a top entertainment medium for consumers all over the globe, Nvidia makes a lot of hay from this creative outlet. Its gaming segment hauled in $12.5 billion in sales last year (46% of the total).
But Nvidia's technology for design and collaboration could undergo supercharged growth going forward. The "professional visualization" segment has been around for awhile, but it more than doubled sales year over year in Q4 to $643 million. That no doubt has a lot to do with the company's Omniverse platform for 3D design, which had general commercial availability last year and has been steadily building momentum.
Omniverse represents a fresh new market for Nvidia -- really, new ground for any semiconductor company to date. It has a software subscription service at its core, and extends to all sorts of design work from video games to engineering to autonomous vehicles. Where did this innovation come from? During a call at the GPU Technology Conference last month, CEO Jensen Huang said that remote and hybrid work "has been good for Nvidia." Teams at the company were using elements of the Omniverse before it became a commercial product, and using it during the pandemic helped accelerate development of the platform.
NVIDIA is already a giant in gaming and data-center artificial intelligence, and now it has another powerful growth segment to conquer. Again, this is no cheap stock. It trades for 72 times trailing 12-month free cash flow. But Nvidia is riding multiple secular trends -- creativity software being the latest. This is a top buy if you plan to own for the next decade.