[Editor’s note: This story was previously published in February 2019. It has since been updated and republished.]
The search for software stocks to buy provides both opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, software develops and changes at a rapid pace, paving the way for ever-increasing chances to profit. However, rapid changes can make it a challenge to maintain market share. Moreover, between application, business, healthcare, internet and security software, there is a dizzying array of choices when it comes to software stocks.
Existing software firms can stand out from the crowd by redefining themselves. As such, they can bring new technical abilities to the marketplace, reviving their companies and their respective stocks. With a little research, investors can find these software stocks before valuations move too high.
These three software stocks should provide both the growth and the new technology needed to drive their stock prices higher for years to come.
Progress Software Corporation (PRGS)
Progress Software (NASDAQ:PRGS) provides software-based security solutions via the cloud. The company divides itself into three sections. OpenEdge, its original product from the early 1980’s, is a programming language focused on developing multi-language business applications. The company also offers cloud-based applications through its Data Connectivity and Integration division. Finally, Application Development and Deployment creates and deploys specialized apps for its clients.
Despite its long history, the company may now be seeing its highest stock price growth ever. PRGS stock maintained a steady growth path following the 2008 financial crisis. And then, in 2017, the stock price almost doubled. After hitting a high of around $43 last fall, PRGS hit a low near $30 during the market downturn and has since rebounded back to the $41 per share level.
The forward price-earnings ratio for the stock now stands at just 15.2, although the company’s earnings per share are expected to be little changed this year.
But as the cloud industry begins an inevitable consolidation, PRGS stock could become a buyout target. Its $1.84 billion market cap makes it a size any larger firm could easily absorb. With the importance of cloud-related security and low valuations, PRGS stock could stand out among software stocks to buy.
National Instruments Corporation (NATI)
Some software stocks revolve around research. Such is the case with National Instruments (NASDAQ:NATI). National Instruments designs and sells software to engineers and scientists. Their software covers a variety of research-related applications, such as data mining and data analysis. Some National Instruments software can perform tests within a manufacturing environment and configure other applications for real-time experiments. These simulations allow engineers and scientists to test ideas before bearing the high costs of manufacturing or building real-world models.
The company has existed since 1976. However, this decade for the company has really hit its stride. The company’s EPS nearly tripled last year.
This growth has begun to appear in its stock. NATI stock traded under $30 per share less than three years ago. Today, it sells at about $40 per share, down from a record of high of $53.57 per share back in March 2018. As for its valuation, its forward P/E is now 29.6. While that might appear high, its five-year estimated PEG ratio is only 0.64. Also, despite its growth and long existence, NATI’s market cap stands at about $5.2 billion. Although it may have taken decades to come into its own, NATI stock presents a compelling value proposition to customers and investors alike.
Symantec Corporation (SYMC)
Symantec (NASDAQ:SYMC) has long served as the provider of Norton AntiVirus software. This stood out among software stocks to buy during the 90s tech boom as it became a leading security platform during the PC era. As of late, SMYC has seen slower growth due to slower PC sales.
However, the company focuses on more than just PCs. Symantec also provides security for both network and cloud applications. Additionally, its acquisition of LifeLock offers protection in the financial realm as well.
Analysts expect these new areas of focus to bolster the stock. SYMC stock saw net income growth fall by an average of 6.9% per year over the last five years, and its EPS is expected to drop by about the same amount this year. But in 2020, its EPS is expected to rebound 8%.
SYMC stock also trades at a discount. After reaching as high as $34.20 per share last September, the stock trades at around $19 per share today.
This could have also created a chance to buy SYMC at a lower price. Its current forward P/E stands at just over ten. Also, keep in mind that income growth will probably return to the double-digits starting next year.
PC-focused companies such as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) have found prosperity after the decline of their one-time core product. I believe the same thing is happening to Symantec. With the low P/E and the prospects for growth, now could be an opportune time to buy it.
As of this writing, Will Healy did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned stocks. You can follow Will on Twitter at @HealyWriting.