There’s a real conundrum I grapple with when it comes to large-cap growth stocks. It almost feels like an inherent contradiction in that a stock that’s already in the large-cap category can’t have much growth left before it’s simply too big to be classified as a growth stock anymore. After all, how much bigger can Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) get?
The answer is … much bigger, if yesterday’s explosive earnings report is any indication. That’s why we pick growth stocks in the first place: They are going to offer much larger returns than the market.
The two stocks we’ll look at today are not only growing, they are going to give massive returns over the next several years. They will easily outpace the S&P 500 and will provide returns vastly in excess of their peers.
I’ve sat on the sidelines for a long time on Apple. It always seemed too expensive. Yet it’s become utterly apparent that Apple is no longer a niche company that offers a niche product to a few fans.
The reason to buy Apple for the long term is that it has become a disruptive innovator. The ease and simplicity of Apple’s desktops and notebooks started to win over people who were sick of the complexity of PCs. Then came Apple’s innovations in music (iPod, iTunes) and then the iPad and iPhone. By starting with root applications and moving rapidly upmarket, Apple not only competes with other companies but displaces them. A look at the declining fortunes of Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) should tell you that.
But it goes further: An entire new market of consumers that had never had the access, money, or skill to use these kinds of products were suddenly awakened to the genius and simplicity of Apple gear. The products didn’t just work — they solved problems and made people’s lives easier and more productive. Because Apple has not shown any sign of slowing down but instead is continuing to innovate in ways that rivals can’t keep up with means it will remain a growth stock.
On top of Apple’s Tuesday announcement that profits soared 118% in its first-fiscal-quarter earnings, the company has $29 billion in net cash and an additional $67 billion in long-term marketable securities, or about $96 per share, giving it an effective stock price of $360. It’s expected to earn $39.19 per share in 2012, which is a 12% increase over last year. So it’s trading at a 10 P/E, with 12% growth for this year, and analysts project annualized five-year growth of 18.62%. That puts Apple on track to double in five years.
So is Apple still a growth stock? Are you kidding me? At this stage of the game, Apple is not only still growing, it could also be a value stock. So I’m buying. Finally.
Another stock that falls into the category of “stocks I watched soar while I fed the pigeons” is Dollar Tree (NASDAQ:DLTR) Boring retail dollar-store stock, you say? Then you haven’t been paying attention. Dollar Tree, along with its peers, has been disrupting the retail market in its own way.
Initially, one might expect to find second-rate garbage at dollar stores. But then they started carrying brand-name merchandise, which lifted them out of the retail ghetto. That only made them more attractive in times of economic distress as folks realized they could get high-quality merchandise at cheaper prices than at the grocery store.
More recently, the dollar chains have have expanded their food and beverages offerings, delivering another disruptive blow. Family Dollar (NYSE:FDO), for example, is set to offer 300 new food items this year. This trend is winning the dollar stores new customers: While their shoppers used to be in the $40,000 salary range, now the chains are attracting folks with incomes all the way up to $70,000.
All this new business is coming at the expense of traditional grocers. While grocers see shrinking margins and are loaded with debt, dollar stores enjoy much higher margins and have lots of cash for expansion. Let me ask you: Which would you rather own — Dollar Tree, with 19% earnings growth, or Safeway (NYSE:SWY), at 7%? Dollar, with $280 million of cash and $250 million in debt, or Safeway, with $180 million in cash and $4.2 billion in debt?
Public and private markets have taken notice. Ninety-Nine Cent Stores just got acquired by Affiliates of Ares Management and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for $1.6 billion. That translates to about 1.1x FY 2011 sales, or about 21x net income. For Dollar Tree, that’s a value of $9.7 billion, right about where it trades today. Analysts see 19% annualized growth over the next five years, again translating to a double. This new line of products is the kind of disruption I like to see in a growth stock, and I think Dollar Tree is best-positioned to take advantage of it.