Highfliers: Will These Winners Keep Winning?

Highfliers: Will These Winners Keep Winning?

With the market at all-time highs, it's harder to find "bargain" stocks. But in many cases, the best investments aren't the cheapest ones. Let's take a look at a few tech companies that have seen their share prices go up more than 100% in the past 12 months.

Will these winners keep on winning? Let's take a look.

IPO gone right, after all?
spent the better part of a year being vilified by the financial press. Even Fools Eric Bleeker and Morgan Housel (both of whom I greatly admire) got in on the act. From Morgan's article:

Some say Facebook's IPO flop will make it harder for other companies to go public in the future, since investors will be more wary. I don't buy that. A few months from now people will forget about this -- just like they forgot about the dot-com bust and the housing bubble -- and we'll be right here again, watching investors lick their wounds after learning the dear consequences of running with the crowd.

But before I stick the knife in any deeper, it's worth pointing out that neither of the above articles were calling Facebook a bad investment, per se. It was more an indictment of the IPO process and how it's weighted heavily in favor of large investors, and how easily individuals can get burned. Chances are, many did, with Facebook shares falling as much as 45% from late June to September 2012.

Shares have more than doubled since then, and are more than 20% above the IPO price. The best part is that the share price recovery is due to Facebook's growing user base, now more than one billion strong, with almost two-thirds of users spending time on Facebook daily.

This active community has been a strong draw for advertisers, as Facebook learns how to integrate ads into the different interfaces and platforms in a way that's rewarding for advertisers, and not a deterrent to user engagement. The results are bearing this out. From the Q2 earnings announcement:

Sure, the stock is expensive with a P/E of over 200, but to focus on that would be to ignore the rapid growth in user interaction, which is driving ad revenue and income up at an enormous rate.

Bright future?
has experienced strong growth over the past few years, to the tune of 52%, 14%, 15%, and 19% annual increases in revenue since 2010. However, net income is down in the past two years, primarily on the nearly doubling of selling, general and administrative expenses from 2011 to 2013. From the annual report:

This increase was primarily due to an increase in spending on sales and marketing for lighting products, including commissions, trade shows and advertising, as we continue to expand our direct sales resources and channels and invest in building and promoting the Cree brand.

Management is taking advantage of the opportunity to establish its brand. And while this is coming at a short-term hit to profits, Cree is in the position to invest in growth out of profits, and not debt or shareholder dilution. Additionally, Cree spends about 17% of revenue on R&D, and in a competitive business that will probably grow more commoditized, maintaining a competitive edge is critical.

It's important to remember that Cree is also a major supplier of LEDs to lighting makers as well as a manufacturer of products for the end market. Its LED products end up in many brands besides its own, so offering new and better technology to other manufacturers is central to Cree's success.

There's little doubt that Cree's stock is expensive by most measures. The long-term path to a solid investment will require the market to continue to pay a premium for Cree, with a current P/E ratio of 82. However, the global lighting market is more than $100 billion annually, which means that Cree only has just over 1.3% of that market today. And that's a lot of growth potential.

Phone it in?
Nokia's decision to sell its handset division to Microsoft for $7 billion was the best path forward for the Finnish tech giant. Even with a solid Lumia product, the duopoly of Android and iOS were pushing both Nokia and BlackBerry into a corner of irrelevance, and it was just a matter of time before something had to happen.

Revenue is down more than 67% since 2008, and much of this is tied to the massive loss in market share in mobile. Moving forward, Nokia will be a much leaner company, focused on its technology infrastructure business.

With that said, the current valuation seems based on speculation about the company selling off more assets, including its mobile patent portfolio, which some have valued at even more than the handset division.

Final thoughts
Nokia's share price includes way too much speculation about things that aren't about the core business, and it's usually not smart to invest on things that the company can't really directly control or influence, or may not even happen. As to Cree and Facebook, there's a path forward for both companies, even with high valuations. Neither is a bargain, but both are plugged into a lot of future growth.

Know the landscape before you invest!
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The article Highfliers: Will These Winners Keep Winning? originally appeared on Fool.com.

Jason Hall owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool recommends Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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