Long-term returns are determined by a few key traits, and investors should focus on them. Stocks with unique potential usually have exceptional growth catalysts and wide economic moats. These three stocks all have clear avenues for rapid growth along with sustainable competitive advantages, creating serious long-term upside.
1. Veeva Systems
Veeva Systems (NYSE: VEEV) is the cloud software leader for the life sciences industry. Its list of more than 1,200 customers includes pharmaceutical companies, biotechs, research organizations, and device manufacturers. They range from early-stage drug candidates to the largest enterprises in the world — almost all of the 20 biggest pharmaceutical companies are Veeva customers.
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Veeva’s suite of products is vital to various stages of the lifecycle of business in its target industries. Customers rely on the software during development and clinical trials for data collection, management, reporting, analysis, and regulatory compliance. Veeva is also an important vendor for sales and marketing functions with customer relationship management software and data analytics tools.
The company has a wide economic moat, which is key to its long-term investment narrative. Its dominance of the life sciences niche helps protect it from competition from more generalized players such as Salesforce.com or any smaller disruptors with the same industry focus. Veeva has clear evidence that its customers are finding value in its services and expanding their relationship with the company. Its retention rate on subscription revenue is 119%, and the average number of products per customer rose from 1.71 to 2.71 over the past five years.
On top of that, Veeva has every chance to outpace the market in growth. Its revenue expanded 26% in the most recent fiscal year. The life sciences industry is outpacing global economic growth, which should translate to more opportunities for Veeva. The company can build on that by layering in new products for existing customers. There’s also the long-term prospect of expanding to adjacent markets, though that would come with its own set of new challenges and expenses.
It’s not a cheap stock with a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio around 50, but that’s not expensive enough to stop growth investors who are in it for the long haul.
ServiceNow (NYSE: NOW) offers cloud-based software that automates workflows and other business processes. Its customers can unlock productivity from employees and achieve better efficiency across their entire organizations. That’s an obvious value proposition, and ServiceNow has an especially strong presence in the IT operations realm — that’s a great space to occupy as the digital transformation trend continues to dominate the business world.
The company has nearly 1,400 customers with annual contracts surpassing $1 million — that’s a great sign for long-term stability. The company boasts a net retention rate around 125%, proving its ability to keep its customers and build on those relationships with additional services such as HR, customer service, and other administrative functions. High switching costs and deep relationships are important elements of an economic moat, and they’re a shield against competition.
ServiceNow has publicly disclosed its goal to surpass $15 billion in annual revenue by 2026, which requires 20% annual compound growth. It certainly seems possible for the company, which smashed its own guidance by growing 29% in the most recent quarter. It also reported nearly 30% growth in “current remaining performance obligations,” which is a strong indicator of short-term sales growth.
The stock is expensive with a forward P/E ratio of 76 and a price-to-sales ratio near 20.
It’s no surprise investors have to pay a premium for that upside potential, but make sure you’re prepared for the risks and volatility inherent in stocks with premium valuations.
3. Home Depot
Home Depot (NYSE: HD) leads the home improvement retail market. The long-term upside proposition here is a bit different from the growth stocks above.
Home building has strong long-term catalysts in the U.S. Since the collapse of the housing market nearly 15 years ago, there have been over five million more households created than new homes built.
This problem has been further complicated by mass relocations and urban flight throughout the pandemic. It’s an especially acute problem for lower-income people and families who are being priced out of their hometowns.
Rising interest rates, input price inflation, and overall economic uncertainty are creating some negativity around home-builder stocks right now, but these are all temporary issues. That’s nothing new for this cyclical industry. Ultimately, the massive housing deficit should be a long-term catalyst for both home builders and their suppliers for at least a decade. Home Depot benefits in general from construction and people moving — that impact should be even greater after the company reacquired contractor supply business HD Supply in Nov. 2020.
This is a chance for value investors to zig where others zag. Home Depot could have a rough few quarters coming up, and the stock is taking a beating. However, the company won’t be going out of business. You can enjoy a 2.4% dividend yield, while you wait for long-term cash flows to push Home Depot’s market cap higher.
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