“The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.” - Rupert Murdoch
From the novice dot com players facing the 2000 burst, to the big, established companies competing fiercely, the technology sector has definitely undergone tremendous change over the past decade. The pace of change cannot matter more in any other sector than technology where a product becomes obsolete overnight and another can change the very way people live. Constant innovation is the key to growth in such an industry. Here is a list of five stocks that seem to be more equipped than others to face this challenge in the coming decade.
Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) - Google is a global technology leader focused on improving the ways people connect with information by enabling them to quickly and easily find, create, and organize information. Advertising revenue constitutes around 97% of its total.
The company has shown an average sales and earnings growth rate of more than 20% over the last five years (~80% and 100% respectively over the past 10 years). The book value/share has also been growing at an average rate over 20% over the same period. The average five-year return on equity is also above 20%. Consistent performance in turbulent times proves the company’s commitment toward continuous innovation – be it Project Gutenberg or Google (GOOG) Instant or Google Chrome, the list never ends.
Google’s latest big launch is the powerful Google+, which is considered to be Google’s response to Facebook. While the initial buzz has slowed down a bit, there are more phases to it and it’s too early to decide its impact.
Google’s Android operating system (OS) has brought it in a leading position in the smartphone OS segment. With smartphone users expected to grow explosively over the coming years, this lead can give Google great new opportunities in the mobile services arena. Competition from Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Microsoft's Bing (NASDAQ:MSFT) are an afterthought.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)– The company, founded in 1976, manufactures a range of mobile and media devices, computers, and portable digital music players, and sells a variety of related software, services, peripherals, networking solutions, and third-party digital content and applications.
With an average sales growth rate of 28% and an earnings growth rate of 48% over the last five years, the company has provided returns at an average rate greater than 30% on its equity. The book value/share has been growing at a solid average rate of 25% over the last 10 years. The company’s consistent performance is the result of company’s focus on research and development to constantly innovate in the fiercely competitive market, and on advertising and marketing to increase its product and brand awareness.
Apple has already become the largest smartphone vendor and iPhones and related products account for more than 45% of the company’s revenue (pdf). The revenue contribution from this segment is growing exponentially, and it is expected to continue the growth over the coming years. Apple’s latest iPhone version iPhone5 is expected to give a further boost to the Apple’s already dominant position. Apple will continue to dominate Research in Motion (RIMM) and Nokia (NYSE:NOK) in the handset market.
IBM Corp. (NYSE:IBM)– The 100-year old company is still the biggest in the information technology sector. It provides IT products and services including IT infrastructure, business process services, consulting and systems integration, application management services, OS software, computing and storage solutions etc.
Though the company has recorded very low sales growth in the past decade, it has still shown an average EPS growth rate of 14%, and a solid ~50% average 5-year return on equity.
The company focuses on research and development to face the growing competition, and has been securing the largest number of patents each year since the last 18 years. Strong balance sheet, solid recurring revenue, robust profit streams and unmatched global reach are IBM’s key strengths.
The company aims for $8 billion of productivity improvement over the next five years. It plans $50 billion in anticipated share repurchases and $20 billion in dividends. The key growth priorities for the company are emerging high growth markets, business analytics and optimization and cloud and smarter computing. The company has managed to keep growing slowly despite its huge size. Its ongoing initiatives are expected to give further boost to its growth. Lower priced competitive pressures from Wipro (NYSE:WIT) and Infosys (NYSE:INFY) are manageable for IBM.
EMC Corp. (NYSE:EMC) - EMC Corp., founded in 1979, develops and supports IT industry's broad range of information infrastructure and virtual infrastructure technologies, solutions and services. EMC's VMware Virtual Infrastructure business, which is represented by EMC's majority equity stake in VMware, Inc., provides virtualization and cloud infrastructure software solutions.
The company’s sales and EPS have been growing at an average rate of 9% and 10% respectively over the last 5 years. The 5-year average return on equity is greater than 10% and the average BVPS growth rate has been 12% during the same period.
The company’s key strength is its strong product portfolio making it well-positioned to capitalize on the enormous opportunities emerging in cloud computing. Big Data, a primary contributor to the staggering pace of data growth, refers to large repositories of corporate and external data, including that created by social media and other web repositories. With EMC’s investments in acquiring Isilon and Greenplum, as well as its internally developed Atmos offering, the company looks well-positioned in this market as well. EMC should be able to keep renewed competition from Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) and Dell, Inc. (NASDAQ:DELL) at bay.
Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE:JNPR) – The company was founded in 1996 with early investments from the AT&T (NYSE:T), Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), Lucent (ALU), Nortel, Siemens (SI), 3Com and UUNET. The company’s operations are organized into two segments. The Infrastructure segment offers scalable routing and switching products as well as a complete wireless local area network solution. The SLT segment offers solutions that meet a broad array of customers’ priorities, from protecting the network itself and data on the network, to maximizing existing bandwidth and acceleration of applications across a distributed network.
Though the stock has shown erratic earnings and a low average return on equity over the last few years, the sales growth has been good at a 17% average rate over 10 years. This may be due, in part, to the fact that the company is spending higher proportions of its revenue in R&D with a multi-year growth agenda. Book value/share has also shown an average growth rate of 15% over the same period.
The company’s continuous launch of new products and entry into new markets and strategic alliances are its key strengths. The company looks set to benefit from the emerging wave of cloud computing.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.