LONDON -- For some time now, investing focus has been on safe, dividend-paying shares. That makes sense, because bearish times and poor economic conditions are not ideally suited to classic growth investing.
But in recent weeks, I've seen companies looking like high-tech growth prospects. They bear some similarity to ARM Holdings (ISE: ARM.L) and Autonomy -- the latter having been sold for big money to Hewlett-Packard.
ARM started off with a novel business model of designing chips and licensing the production to others, and its valuation on conventional measures was up in the sky. But ARM has gone on to make lots of money for its shareholders and is now in the top half of the FTSE 100, valued at more than 7 billion pounds.
So where is the next generation of ARMs? Today I'm looking at three promising growth prospects with interesting technology.
Blinkx (ISE: BLNX.L) is an AIM-listed company valued around 140 million pounds. It develops video search software, which is in demand from advertisers and other media companies.
Blinkx floated on AIM in May 2007 and didn't have much trouble raising the capital it needed. Today its technology is being used by more than 800 partners in various parts of the online media business.
Searching is a surprisingly tricky business, and Blinkx's software uses clever stuff like speech recognition and video analysis. That's all augmented by search and analysis technology licensed from Autonomy, which is arguably the best in the business. It's a perpetual license, too, so the Autonomy cleverness is there for good. If anyone else wants to come along and compete, Blinkx's work is protected by 111 patents.
Blinkx is already profitable, and while forecasts for 2013 are pretty flat, they spike upward quite seriously for 2014. The future is where the serious money will (hopefully) be.
Thanks to the shares falling from 2011's high point of 158 pence to 40 pence, you can get them on a prospective price-to-earnings ratio of 28 for 2013, falling to just 11 on 2014 forecasts.
Don't just stand there!
Innovative success often comes from using technology to solve mundane problems -- like standing in queues. And that is a bane for theme park operators; they'd much rather have people walking around and spending money than standing idly in line.
What if you could pick up a little magic box, book your rides, and have it stand in a virtual queue for you while you're free to go do other stuff -- then alert you when it's your turn on the rides?
That's what Lo-Q (ISE: LOQ.L) does, and it's renting out its "Q-Bot" technology to the likes of Six Flags Over Georgia theme park, Dollywood, and Legoland. And that really should be just the start.
The firm made 2.7 million pounds in pretax profit in 2011, with 3.4 million pounds forecast for this year and 3.7 million pounds expected in the next.
The price has admittedly flown, from 16.5 pence in 2008 to 327 pence today. But the shares are still on a P/E of 22 for 2013. Many growth companies have been on much higher ratings at this stage in their lives.
Printing is everywhere
I like the look of Xaar (ISE: XAR.L) , the world's largest independent supplier of industrial printheads. Though it's not a recent startup, Xaar is showing signs that it's currently in a growth phase.
In addition to paper and cards, Xaar's technology is used for printing on ceramics, laminates, and other materials, as well as for applications like high-resolution and high-color-density graphics, packaging, bar codes, and other markings. It's also used in industrial processes where the squirting of tiny drops of fluids is needed.
The shares haven't moved much lately, despite a doubling of earnings per share in 2011 and strong forecasts for 2012 and 2013. On this year's estimates, the 230 pence shares are on a forward P/E of 16, falling to 12 next year. That produces PEG ratios of 0.37 for both years, which is well within classic growth desirability. (Jim Slater has always looked for 0.7 or less.)
I also looked at a competitor to Xaar, Domino Printing Sciences, which I also think is attractive. Yet Xaar's forecasts make it my choice of the two.
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At the time thisarticle was published Alan does not own any shares mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.
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