Three months ago, I wrote about three companies that appeared to have a favorable long-term outlook. At the time, the market seemed to be discounting their potential. But now the gap between perception and reality has narrowed for two of those three recommendations.
The average pick has risen by a little better than 24%. Not bad for a three-month period. In Netflix, many of the factors that I spelled out freed up the DVD rental giant from its rivals. Apple just kept cooking. I missed on TiVo -- for now -- but I still think that one will come around, too, despite its recent moves back into the hardware side of the business.
Well, 2006 is now just a few months away. If we're going to get an early jump on any more prolific players, we'd better get going. Here are four more stocks that I believe will be solid producers in 2006.
Yes, Microsoft. The poster child of share price stagnancy over the past five years is geared toward more happening times. Granted, the next generation of its Windows operating system has been delayed more than a few times. It may come out in the second half of 2006; it may come out in 2007. But that release, when it does finally happen, should spike a revival in the computing sector as folks upgrade their machines, although it will just be gravy on top of Mr. Softy's bread and butter.
The real reason to discover Microsoft, again, is that it's starting to make headway elsewhere. Microsoft will have its new Xbox out over the holidays. The November debut of the Xbox 360 will beat out its competitors by at least a year, and it will also help the console gain ground on PlayStation as the gaming platform of choice. As broadband connectivity becomes more commonplace, making WiFi gameplay and content delivery all the more feasible, the video game console business may not be the low-margin cesspool that many see it as today.
Microsoft is also starting to cash in on its popularity as a dot-com eye magnet. It was late to the game in developing a paid search platform and a Web-wide ad distribution for smaller publishers, but the company continues to move forward on that front.
2. Sirius Satellite Radio
No, Sirius isn't the top dog in satellite radio. However, that hasn't stopped it from nibbling away at the market share of leader XM Satellite Radio. A year ago, Sirius had just 23% of the stateside market. It's at 29% now and will be at 33% by the end of the year. Both companies continue to grow on an absolute basis, but Sirius is growing faster, and 2006 will be a watershed year for the contender, when Howard Stern arrives come January.
It's not just a matter of landing terrestrial radio's bad boy. Many -- though clearly not a majority -- of his 10 million listeners will migrate to Sirius, but it's bigger than that. Stern will help program two new channels for Sirius, further filling out the throne of the self-annointed "King of All Media." With the combination of Stern, radio programming legend Mel Karmazin at the helm, and lucrative deals with the NFL and celebrities like Martha Stewart in place, Sirius will start reaping the viral magic of being fodder for water-cooler chat.
Sirius is not going to catch up to XM in 2006, but it may be the year when the company starts signing up more new subscribers as the chic brand in satellite radio. Another important landmark for Sirius in 2006 is that if all goes according to plan, the company will be cash flow-positive by the year's final quarter. Given the company's fat deficits at the moment, that will sound sweeter than even the best of the company's commercial-free digital music streams.
If you're not familiar with any of Pixar's theatrical releases, ask your inner child. The company behind classics such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo has had an amazing run. Its six films have averaged a whopping $243 million at the domestic box office before far exceeding that amount in the overseas and rich DVD and video retail market. The company's profitability and wide margins have been extraordinary, but things will get even better, theoretically speaking, when it ends its pact with Disney after it releases Cars come May 2006.
Pixar has the potential to double its profits if its track record holds up by the time it cuts its ties. Although Disney has served Pixar well as a partner, Pixar has given up way too much in the relationship. Disney is collecting 50% of the profits after taking its cut as a distributor, and it maintains control of the movies' characters. Disney may still come back -- as a distributor, at least -- but no matter what happens, the next deal will surely be far more favorable to Pixar. The fruit of any such relationship may not begin to ripen until the second half of 2007, but it will probably be too late to buy in at that point, since there's a good chance the stock will have risen in anticipation of the bottom-line explosion.
4. Marvell Technology
Semiconductors can make for a brutal business, but not for Marvell. Defying the cyclical stink, Marvell has been able to grow its top line, sequentially, for 31 straight quarters. It has done so by specializing in consumer-electronics gadgetry, piggybacking on the success of everything from the iPod to the Xbox by providing the chips inside the thingies that everyone wants.
Apple's move to flash memory on the new iPod nano line of digital music players may lead some to question Marvell's future. I believe the revenue streak will continue, with a vengeance, thanks to the company's prominent role in another booming market, VoIP (voice over Internet protocol).
The advantage of buying early
All four of these companies -- like the three that I had singled out back in June -- are laying down the roots in 2005 for what should be a stellar 2006.
That's the kind of misunderstood investing opportunity that also drives many of the smaller companies we single out every month for our Rule Breakers newsletter subscribers. From stock recommendations to profiling emerging industries to lively discussion boards, it's all about seeing the catalysts that the shortsighted market fails to make out on the horizon. You don't need to scour eBay -- a classic Rule Breaker in the late 1990s, by the way -- for a time machine. You just need to connect the dots until you get to tomorrow's tomorrow.
If you're intrigued, why not kick the tires as part of a 30-day free trial? While that won't take you all the way through to 2006 as the more formal annual subscriptions would, at least you will have your invitation to the mother of all investing parties. Don't forget to RSVP.
Pixar, Netflix, TiVo, and eBay are recommendations of the Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter service.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does enjoy time travel -- at least the notion of it. He does own shares in Netflix, Disney, and Pixar. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.