Who called me a cheap date?
I've been singling out promising stocks under $10 since 2001. What started out as an annual list became a monthly column three months ago. Since this will be the last list of 2007, I figured I would concentrate on low-priced stocks that have some potential catalysts to move into the double-digits -- and beyond -- in 2008.
There are some beefy risks involved when you dig into the muck of the obscure and unloved. Volatility can rock both ways. I have no problem with being accountable for the misses, but do your own homework to single out the hits.
Things went from fizz to flat in 2007 for the company behind the eccentric soft-drink flavors and the bottles sporting photographs from consumers. Shares started the year at $12.30 and nearly tripled by April after the company struck a wide distribution deal for its soda in canned form. A slow and uninspiring summer rollout dropped the shares into the single digits.
So why is Jones Soda sitting pretty for 2008? Why has it been recently tapped as a Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter recommendation? Well, the top-line growth has been robust. It's the bottom line that has come up short.
The founder is stepping down as CEO, which opens the door for a seasoned industry veteran to shore up margins. The company also inked an exclusive stadium deal with the Seattle Seahawks. The New Jersey Nets followed suit. If other event venues, casual-dining eateries, or amusement parks turn to Jones, it could open up the realm of lucrative fountain sales at Jones.
Warner Music Group
The record industry is in deep trouble. CD sales continue to plummet, and industry watchers are braced for the worst in a sector that has been slow to embrace new revenue streams -- like taking a stake in signed-artist tours and merchandise.
Then again, it's always darkest before the B-side plays. Warner actually squeezed out a small profit in its latest quarter. High-margin digital revenue continues to grow and now makes up 15% of the revenue mix.
Shares may not be as "beautiful" as Warner artist James Blunt would croon it, but if the appetite for music isn't going away -- and the real problem is the industry's need to find ways to monetize it accordingly -- artist-rich labels such as Warner will have to bottom out sometime. With a compelling pipeline of marquee releases in 2008, Warner's ready to rock on.
I've been burned by Jamba Juice's parent company as an investment. After having way too many Strawberries Wild and Orange Dream Machine smoothies, I figured I couldn't go wrong with buying into the company behind the 672-unit chain.
Big mistake. Lumpy financials, difficult comps in its home state, and a decision last month to scale back its 2008 expansion plans dented the shares. There's a light at the end of the blender blade, though; in a surprising announcement earlier this month, food giant Nestle struck a deal to roll out Jamba Juice-branded beverages to stateside grocers in 2008. The company is also coming out with a breakfast menu to attract fruit sippers earlier in the day.
With the market braced for continued losses, success in any of its 2008 initiatives will reshuffle the pessimism. Maybe I won't lament downing all of those Jamba Juice smoothies after all.
This may be the last time to single out Hastings below $10, so here goes. Consumer electronics has been a tough retailing niche unless your name is Best Buy
Hastings is thriving in this environment. Sure, its CD sales and movie rentals are off, but the media retailer is growing everywhere else. Whether it's selling video game systems, musical gear, or books, Hastings is scoring well as a catch-all merchant.
It's also cheap. After last month's quarterly report, the company boosted its guidance. Hastings is now looking to earn $0.88 to $0.92 a share this year, well ahead of its original goal of $0.68. Can you really buy into a company with improving fundamentals at just 11 times this year's earnings? You can, for now.
I singled out eLong last month, but it's hard to leave it out from a list of stocks with clear catalysts in 2008. The company runs a travel portal in China. You do know that next summer's Olympic Games will be taking place in Beijing, right?
The problem with eLong is that it's not growing at the same frenetic pace as rival -- and market darling -- Ctrip.com
However, eLong's balance sheet is blessed with $6.22 per American depositary share in cash. It also brought in a new scholarly CEO who is young but apparently not afraid to rattle the cages to get eLong moving again.
Five for the road
The risks are significant with these five companies. However, all but Jamba and Warner are expected to turn a profit next year. That doesn't mean the floors are sturdy, beyond eLong's huge cash mattress. Then again, when we're scouring stocks in the single digits, it's more about eyeing the ceilings than the tenuous floors.
Finding promising stocks while they're still cutting their baby teeth is at the heart of the Rule Breakers newsletter. There are seven active stock recommendations in the growth-stock research service trading for less than $10 at the moment. That includes Jones Soda. Check those out, and I'll be back with more next month.
Jones Soda is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Yes, a 30-day free subscription offer will keep you going until next month's installment. Ctrip is a Hidden Gems pick, and Best Buy has been selected in both Motley Fool Stock Advisor andInside Value.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz wonders how many people know that Alexander Hamilton is the one on the $10 bill. He does own shares in both Jamba and Jones Soda. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.