Pop quiz, hot shot. Name the company that's most likely to be a 10-bagger by 2020.
It's a hard question. There isn't just one correct answer -- you can find three candidates here -- but it's easy to weed out some popular incorrect answers.
If you named Research In Motion
He found that the largest grower of the last 10 years, beverage company Hansen Natural, was almost a 50-bagger. Even at 50 times its original market capitalization, Hansen is a $3 billion company -- one-fifteenth the size of Research In Motion, a twentieth the size of Merck, and a fortieth the size of Coca-Cola.
It gets better
Besides having room to grow, small caps have another hidden feature. They are more volatile than their large-cap brethren. This can lead to fluctuations that are absolutely heartbreaking for investors with low risk tolerances. But for those of us with higher risk tolerance, the volatility provides opportunity.
As we've seen recently, large-cap stocks can be quite volatile, too. When their price losses significantly outstrip the market's, though, there's usually something terribly amiss.
Familiar examples are former blue chips AIG
Meanwhile, small caps are a little different. Since they tend to have greater volatility than the market as a whole, sometimes they experience dramatic stock price tumbles on very little news. Or even on relatively good news.
A quick example
Take the recent case of restaurant company Buffalo Wild Wings
In response, shares were sliced in half in the month following the earnings release ... only to gain it all back and then some after the company beat analyst expectations in the subsequent quarter. Over the past few months, it's been the same company with the same long-term prospects. There have been no huge company-related events, and its price is about the same now as it was a year ago.
But somewhere in the middle, the market threw a half-off sale for investors patient enough to wait for a discounted entry point. Since they took advantage of volatility, those investors need only a five-bagger from here to reach the vaunted 10-bagger status.
The 10-bagger club
In 2020, when we look back at the decade's list of 10-baggers, the list will be dominated by stocks that can be described as:
The list of investors who profit from these 10-baggers will be dominated by people who can be described as:
If you have these two qualities, I invite you to join our analysts at the Motley Fool Hidden Gems newsletter. They are putting the Fool's money where its mouth is by building a real-money portfolio of small-cap stocks. You can see all the companies they're investing in with a free 30-day trial. If you're not impressed, there's no obligation to subscribe.
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This article was originally published on May 15, 2009. It has been updated.
Anand Chokkavelu owns shares of Citigroup. Buffalo Wild Wings is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick. Coca-Cola is an Inside Value and an Income Investor recommendation. Hansen Naturals is a Rule Breakers choice. The Fool owns shares of Buffalo Wild Wings. The Fool has a disclosure policy.