While everyone has heard about Apple (AAPL) and its plethora of products including laptops, laptop accessories, mp3 players, cell phones and applications; there are other great technology companies that you have probably never heard about. Today I would like to take a look at a few of these tech companies.
Blackboard is the king of e-learning. Blackboard develops and licenses software apps to K-12 schools, colleges, and graduate schools. If you have ever taken an online class, then the chances are good that you have used Blackboard’s software. Blackboard is a small cap tech company that has been able to grow earnings at a 22% clip over the past 5 years. As college costs continue to rise, students are looking for alternatives to traditional education. The online education market is only getting bigger and Blackboard will be one of the biggest beneficiaries. Earnings are expected to grow 23% annually over the next 5 years. The balance sheet is decent with $167 million in cash and $156 million in debt. Five consecutive years of earnings growth and the future is even brighter.
STEC Inc. (STEC)
STEC’s main business is developing flash solid-state drives (SSD’s) The good news is that solid-state sales are on the upswing. The market for solid-state drives is expected to double over the next year. STEC is expecting 56% earnings growth over the next five years. STEC has a great balance sheet with $145 million in cash and no debt. Operating and profit margins are consistently high along with an impressive return on equity. Despite all of the positive news, this stock is an incredibly risky play. EMC (EMC) has the power to make or break STEC. 62% of STEC’s business is derived directly from EMC. Any major slowdown in orders from EMC and the stock will likely suffer. At $12 a share, the stock is a value play trading at just 14 times next year’s earnings.
Nuance Communication (NUAN)
Speech recognition software is the future and Nuance Communication is on the cutting edge of this industry. Nuance is currently valued at $16 a share and the stock has tremendous upside potential. Five year earnings growth is estimated at a modest 15.5% making it highly likely that Nuance can exceed these estimates. Revenue has nearly tripled over the past four years and gross profit has doubled. The balance sheet is admittedly weak with twice as much debt as cash. Nuance is a likely takeover target by a larger competitor. There have been rumors of a takeover by Google (GOOG). Even if Nuance is acquired by a larger competitor, shares will likely be sold at a premium to its current valuation.
As you can see, just because a company is not a household name doesn’t mean that its products are not a must have for consumers.
Disclosure: The author owns shares of Nuance and Blackboard, but not STEC