Growth stocks have been on a roller-coaster ride over the past few months and shares of the most popular names are well off their highs. Many pundits are wondering if a market crash is ahead. No one knows.
Axon Enterprise (AXON 2.24%) is poised to weather any storm and may actually benefit if the economy sours. The company is down almost 40% from its peak, but there are several reasons shareholders can feel confident holding for the long term.
One statistic that no one likes
In the U.S., civilians are killed by law enforcement at a much higher rate than in any other country. There are plenty of potential explanations as to why this happens. No matter why you might think the number is so high, reducing it is something just about everyone can agree on.
That's why Axon's products are in demand. They represent one tool that can help bring this number down. It isn't just the non-lethal electrical weapons driving adoption. The company also provides body cameras and a service that helps society to find the truth in emotionally charged situations.
Axon's Evidence.com cloud-based platform stores and organizes all of the video captured by its body cameras. Despite being treated as convincing evidence, eyewitness testimony -- especially of participants -- is notoriously unreliable. A recording helps solve that -- a win for everyone.
A better way to look at growth
Those are just some of the reasons Axon has experienced robust growth over the past decade. Revenue has grown 25%, on average, every year since 2012. But there may be a better way to assess just how fast its products are being adopted.
Axon can only recognize revenue as services are delivered. That means on a multiyear contract, sales only show up one year at a time. However, its backlog holds all sales to be delivered in the future, which makes it a better representation of real growth. And it's outpacing revenue by a lot.
The growth is especially pronounced in its software and services segment -- the one with Evidence.com. Although backlog isn't quite money in the bank -- contracts can usually be cancelled with some penalty paid by customers -- it's hard to imagine law enforcement agencies having equipment like body cameras but not paying to use it. That said, management does list municipal budgeting as a risk to realizing the future revenue.
A downturn might actually help Axon's business
The World Economic Forum has found empirical evidence that crime increases during a recession. And market crashes often occur when recessions are imminent.
That's not to say that Axon shareholders should welcome a recession. It's just another reason not to fear one if it happens.
In a world of strongly held opposing views, Axon sells a product that can unite people around a common goal. Its business is good, but growth is understated by traditional metrics. That alone would make it an enticing candidate for a portfolio.
The fact that the company could actually get stronger if the economy turns south should put it near the top of the list for investors who want growth but fear the current market environment.