For investors, the New Year brings new opportunities to beat the market. To help you sort the potential winners from the duds, three Motley Fool contributors explain why Pandora Media (NYSE:P), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), and Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) are three stocks that are poised to reward shareholders in 2015.
Tim Beyers (Pandora Media): For audio streamer Pandora Media (NYSE:P), 2014 was the year the music stopped. The stock fell more than 33% last year versus a better-than-12% gain for the S&P 500. Why should anyone buy into a growth story that's failed to deliver for shareholders?
Fair question. My response is that Pandora and chief competitor Spotify are still in the early stages of exploiting a local advertising market worth more than $14 billion at last count. Between the two, Pandora has an edge with more than a year of directly supplying ratings data to local ad buyers. (Spotify unveiled plans to compete for local ad dollars in December.)
What's more, Pandora is improving in every metric that matters. Total listening hours jumped 25% year over year in the third quarter. Overall ad revenue grew 44%, while mobile ad revenue jumped 56%. Local ad sales -- perhaps the company's biggest long-term opportunity -- zoomed 118%. That's huge growth earned in a market filled with tough competitors like Spotify, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), and most recently, Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) with Prime Music.
Pandora's plummeting share price suggests that most investors aren't sold on the prospects for the streaming service. I think they're wrong, and not just because of the company's improving metrics. Trends also favor Pandora.
Rising auto sales and lower gas prices should have more of us driving in 2015. Pandora, which has agreements with 26 different car manufacturers, should see an uptick in on-the-go listening as a result, which is great for ad revenue.
A ripe market. Improving metrics. Favorable trends. There's no guarantee that Pandora stock will soar in 2015, but with a formula like that, I wouldn't bet against it.
Joe Tenebruso (Google): Google's had a rocky start to 2015, with shares falling 5% and recently hitting a fresh 52-week low. But while Google bears will claim that the search giant's best days are long gone, years of strong growth still lie ahead. Here's why.
I believe we're nearing an inflection point in which we'll begin to see not only stabilization in cost-per-click rates (basically the average revenue Google receives for its clicks), but also an eventual increase in this important metric. CPC has been declining in large part due to an increasing portion of Google's ads being served on mobile devices, which tend to earn lower CPC than desktop ads.
Yet Google's management has stated that it's very likely mobile advertising prices will one day be higher than desktop prices. That's because mobile can offer better targeting tools -- such as location data -- that businesses can use to deliver relevant ads to nearby shoppers. (Think of a restaurant offering a lunchtime flash sale to people within walking distance.)
With consumers rapidly becoming more comfortable with shopping on mobile devices -- retailers such as Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Target (NYSE:TGT) recently reported that 60% of their holiday traffic came from mobile -- many advertisers are already beginning to see rising returns on their mobile advertising investments.
Why is this so important? Good question. It's because declining CPC rates have partially offset the rise in the number of Google's clicks for most of the last several years.
Tamara Walsh (Tesla Motors): Electric-car maker Tesla Motors got off to a rough start this year, with its share price falling more than 13% since the start of 2015. The recent pullback followed comments from Tesla's chief executive, Elon Musk, who said that quarterly sales in China were weaker than expected in the fourth quarter. However, this short-term setback should have little influence on Tesla's overall performance in the year ahead.
For starters, last week Musk said that robust Model S sales in North America helped make up for any slower-than-expected growth in China in the quarter. In fact, looking ahead, China is a massive opportunity for Tesla -- particularly because the EV maker has full support from the Chinese government, which is rare for foreign businesses operating in the Asian country.
Tesla drivers in Shanghai are even entitled to free license plates, thereby avoiding the standard auction price of $10,000 to $15,000 per plate. This should help incentivize more consumers to buy Tesla's cars going forward. Additionally, Tesla's newly opened Shenzhen location in China is now one of the company's highest-grossing stores worldwide today.
The California-based company also has other catalysts working in its favor in 2015, including the much anticipated release of its Model X crossover vehicle, new leasing options that make it easier for consumers to finance its cars, and the launch of its higher-margin P85D Model S.
With Tesla's stock now trading near the low-end of its 52-week range, I think there's plenty of upside for the stock in the quarters to come. In addition, with more than 24% of Tesla's shares sold short, investors could see the stock rally on a short squeeze going forward.