They say, "The devil is in the details," but I think this expression could just as easily be, "The devil is in the numbers." Numbers matter for investors, so it's incredibly important to understand what they mean.
I spend my days reading and analyzing stocks, so I stumble across fascinating numbers all the time. As part of my investing process, I always try to seek out the larger implications behind these figures. Many times they might indicate potential growth or reveal the nuances of a revenue stream. Obviously the numbers aren't everything -- qualitative factors are equally important when making an investing decision. However, I strongly believe that meaningful figures are a key part of a successful investing process, so I'll be sharing with you some of the stats and facts that have caused me to do a double take.
Shoppers' choice award: Amazon
The momentum behind e-commerce and online shopping isn't slowing down anytime soon. Want proof? How about the fact that on Cyber Monday, Amazon.com (NAS: AMZN) sold 158 items per second for the entire day. That's a total of 13.7 million items.
That's an absurd performance, but it's easy to see how the company accomplished it. The purveyor-of-everything sells, well, everything. Generally, they sell it for cheaper than anyone else, too. A recent report by TheEconomist found a basket of 100 items cost 5.4% less, on average, at Amazon than at bargain maestro Wal-Mart. The addition of Amazon Prime allows consumers to get their goods in just two days with free shipping, eliminating a major drawback to online shopping (though Prime does cost $79 annually).
The fact that 80% of U.S. consumers skipped stores on Black Friday shows the waning mania for the shopping holiday, too, and builds a stronger case for e-commerce as a convenient and often cheaper alternative to brick-and-mortar shopping. As e-tailing grows in size, it won't just be Amazon that benefits. eBay (NAS: EBAY) , owner of transacting platform PayPal, is likely to become the Visa (NYS: V) of tomorrow as the service becomes the preferred method of online payment.
Newsflash: Mobile technology is kind of a big deal
The explosion of mobile technology shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Smartphones are expected to hit a billion units in 2015, and given their 72% growth rate from 2010, that trajectory seems likely. Meanwhile, tablet sales exploded a staggering 207% in 2011, with Apple (NAS: AAPL) leading the charge, having sold a ridiculous 40 million iPads on a cumulative basis. Some of these stats are hard to fathom. You'll start to get an idea, though, if you try and visualize one out of every seven people in the world with a smartphone.
So what's one of the first things people do after picking up these shiny new gadgets? Well, besides download Angry Birds, many people protect said devices with a case of some sort. Enter ZAGG (NAS: ZAGG) , maker of mobile device cases. Most people find the $20 investment to be a cheap way to protect their favorite new device, and ZAGG fits the bill perfectly.
ZAGG also sells invisibleSHIELD, clear protection for handheld devices that has already sold over 20 million versions.
From an investment perspective, it's an interesting company. Yet there are negatives: ZAGG's P/E of 17 is a bit steep. It also sells a highly commoditized product, has produced sharply lower earnings per share recently, and got nailed in a Citron Research report.
Then again, if the explosive near-100% revenue growth of the last quarter is any indication, ZAGG is doing something right. With a PEG ratio of .70, and an estimated earnings growth of 26% for each of the next five years, the company may even be cheap. Ultimately, I'm worried about the ambiguity surrounding their return agreements with retailers, but I think the explosive mobile device growth could just be enough to overcome some company shortcomings. It's a tough bet, and one I am certainly keeping my eye on in the next few quarters.
ZAGG isn't the only company positioned to benefit from mobile growth. We are at the very beginning of what technology analyst Eric Bleeker has dubbed "The Next Trillion-Dollar Revolution." As we move further down the road of mobile device penetration, there is one unexpected company poised to become the juggernaut of tomorrow. The Motley Fool has profiled this company in a special FREE report. You can click here to access it now -- it won't cost a dime.
At the time thisarticle was published Austin Smith owns no shares of the companies mentioned here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Amazon.com.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Apple, eBay, and Amazon.com.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave also recommended writing puts in eBay and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.
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