Amid evidence of a slowing economy, it's a good idea for investors to focus on stocks that can emerge strongly from any downturn. Diversified industrial Honeywell International (HON -1.27%), industrial software company PTC (PTC 0.34%), and Google owner Alphabet (GOOG -0.96%) (GOOGL -1.10%) will suffer from a slowdown, but they also are likely to come out of it in excellent shape. Here's why.
Honeywell isn't your average mature industrial cash cow
While some mature companies are locked into growth rates that only match gross domestic product gains, Honeywell upgraded its expectations for long-term growth from between 3% and 5% to between 4% and 7% at its investor day event in March.
It comes down to the company's ability to generate growth through its investment in new technology. For example, Honeywell's management monitors a metric called its "new product introduction vitality index," or NPI vitality. It represents the percentage of its sales coming from products introduced in the past three years. In a demonstration of the company's growth potential, this metric has gone from 17% in 2017 to 31% in 2021 and the company estimates it will reach 33% in 2023.
Honeywell is already on track to generate growth from its new products and has plenty of other "breakthrough initiatives" in development. For example, management believes its majority-owned quantum computing business known as Quantinuum will generate $2 billion in revenue by 2026, while its sustainable technology solutions (advanced plastics recycling, renewable fuels, carbon capture, energy-efficient refrigerants) are expected to report sales gains at a 50% annual growth rate, from $200 million in 2021 to $700 million in 2024.
Meanwhile, its urban air mobility and unmanned aerial systems businesses provide avionics, propulsion, and mechanical systems for air taxis and logistics drones -- two exciting growth markets. And the company continues to invest in software capability to add higher-margin software and digital solutions to its industrial equipment.
Putting it all together, Honeywell is well placed to emerge stronger from any recession, and the stock is well worth buying on any general weakness.
PTC's growth story is in its initial stages
The industrial software company classifies its software products in two separate categories. The first is its core products of computer-aided design (CAD) and product lifecycle management (PLM) software. The second is its growth products, the Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR). Management's playbook is to generate solid sales growth in its core products, while the growth products line leads the way in the future.
It's a compelling story because both categories have growth prospects. PTC has a growth opportunity within CAD and PLM from transitioning its products to cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) solutions. Moreover, the explosion of interest/investment in digital data means designers (CAD) and manufacturers (PLM) will significantly benefit from using PTC's solutions.
For example, in CAD, engineers and designers can better collaborate digitally in designing products and solutions. It's similar to PLM, where manufacturers can reduce operational and production costs by digitally monitoring and managing production.
Meanwhile, IoT and AR lie at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, whereby manufacturers will use digital information from physical assets to iteratively improve the performance of the latter through modeling the former. These favorable megatrends will remain long after everyone has forgotten about a recession in 2022.
Alphabet maintains its dominant market position
Google's advertising revenue growth will slow in a recession, but three crucial things will remain throughout any slowdown. First, Google will still generate prodigious amounts of free cash flow for Alphabet, and the company's cash position will swell. Wall Street analysts believe Alphabet will hold an incredible $193 billion in net cash by 2024 -- a figure giving management ample room to focus on growth investments to generate value for shareholders.
Second, it's highly unlikely that Google will lose its dominant position in search anytime soon. Third, Alphabet will carry on building scale at Google Cloud to secure long-term recurring revenue and ultimately profitability in this high-growth industry.
All told, Alphabet will emerge from a recession in solid shape. Moreover, if management can use its massive cash reserves to make acquisitions at more favorable prices in a downturn, its growth potential could be even further enhanced.