This has been a great year for most technology stocks. The Nasdaq Composite Index is up an impressive 26% so far as we gradually move into the final quarter of the calendar year. Three technology stocks, in particular, have caught my eye. All three have outperformed the market by huge margins this year but what's even more impressive is that all of them have solid catalysts that can drive them higher.
The three of them are from different industries in the tech sector. So, investors looking to profit from different aspects of technology should definitely take a look at them.
A gaming play
Giant Interactive (GA) is a Chinese online gaming company that has appreciated almost 57% this year. The company's massively multiplayer online games have been a hit among Chinese subscribers and it looks like Giant has found the formula to succeed in an industry estimated to grow at a CAGR of 15.57%, according to IDC.
Giant Interactive's ZT Online game franchise has been an important source of revenue for it. The company has continually focused on keeping the game interesting by deploying expansion packs and new game play experience, which is a sound strategy. Giant is also in the process of releasing World of Xianxia and Giant's management believes that this will be its next important source of revenue.
World of Xianxia has successfully gone into closed beta testing and the game has started becoming accretive even though it has not been opened to the entire subscriber base. Giant Interactive is also focusing on other game formats such as web games in a smart manner. It is leveraging the popularity of its existing MMO games and this should help its web games get off to a good start.
Other impressive things about Giant are its cheap valuation and a juicy dividend yield. Giant's trailing P/E is 11.78, which comes down to just 8.57 on a forward P/E basis. Analysts expect the company's earnings to grow at a CAGR of 18.37% over the next five years, which makes Giant a good buy at current prices. Investors also get a hefty dividend that yields 5.70%.
Light it up
LED lighting specialist Cree (CREE) has been great this year. Shares are up almost 80% year-to-date, although they have fallen 20% in the past one month after the company issued a shallow guidance for the first quarter. But for a company that plies its trade in an industry that's expected to hit $94 billion in revenue in the next six years, dips such as these should be used to buy more shares.
The biggest advantage for Cree is that it is looking to take LED lighting to the masses and capture a lion's share of the industry. Its 40-watt replacement LED light bulb costs $9.97 while the 60-watt replacement goes for $12.97. What's more important is that these bulbs will last 25 times longer than an incandescent light bulb and consume 84% less power. The company believes that consumers can save $61 a year if they use Cree's LED bulbs in a home's five most frequently used light fixtures.
Cree is also targeting the commercial lighting market through its XSPR Series Street Light that costs $99. The company believes that this light is 65% more efficient than sodium street lights. But at a trailing P/E of almost 80, Cree is not a stock for the faint-hearted. But on a forward basis, the P/E multiple comes down to just 25.5, which means that analysts are expecting solid growth.
But considering that Cree's year-over-year quarterly revenue growth stands at an impressive 22% and earnings growth is a whopping 182%, investors should give Cree a thought. Also, the company is debt-free, has $1 billion of cash on the balance sheet, and earnings are expected to grow at a terrific pace of 33% for both the current and the next fiscal year.
The memory play
Chipmaker Micron Technology's (MU) stock appreciation in 2013, stands at an astronomical 173% as higher prices of DRAM and NAND have led to a terrific earnings performance this year. In Micron's third quarter, the company had posted a profit of $43 million, which was a massive improvement from a loss of $320 million in the prior-year period.
Average selling prices of DRAM were up 16% and NAND flash prices had jumped 8% in the previous quarter. But the great thing is that the increase in prices is accompanied by an increase in demand. The growth in shipments of mobile devices has led to strong demand for Micron's mobile DRAM and the company has further consolidated its position in the industry by acquiring Japanese memory company Elpida.
Micron is in a good position to benefit from different trends such as growth of data centers, growing demand for solid state drives and higher shipments of mobile devices. Prices of DRAM are expected to jump further according to Micron as memory makers keep capacity additions under control. Also, the Elpida acquisition has also probably helped Micron buy its way into Apple as Elpida was a supplier of DRAM for the iPhone 5.
Micron is expected to report earnings later this month and the next earnings call will give investors greater insight of where it is going. But considering the trends in the industry such as rising prices and demand, I expect Micron's growth to continue going forward.
These three companies belong to different areas in the tech sector and all have performed greatly this year. All are a part of growing industries and all three look to be in a good position to benefit from the positive developments in their end markets, which means that further upside can be expected.