After a volatile 2011 in the markets, I have compiled a list of five companies to look to in 2012 for better than expected performance.
1) Apple (AAPL)
Apple continues to gain market share in the PC business. Their retail expansion, into Grand Central and 5th Ave, shows a dominant branding strategy. The retail experience and clever marketing appeals to the PC market. The Steve Jobs biography has effectively cemented the cult of Mac, in the minds of consumers.
Apple is gaining tremendous traction in househould computing. Apple TV, the iPhone, and iPad are revolutionizing consumer appliances. By having first mover advantage in the smartphone and tablet market, Apple continues to gain market share as competitors are rushing to keep up.The company continues to be on the forefront of personal computer innovation. The market will continue to reward this innovation through 2012.
2) Microsoft (MSFT)
Microsoft has begun to gain ground on Apple with the Windows 8 operating system. Acer has just released there S3 Ultrabook, running Windows, to compete with the Macbook Air. Further, Microsoft is still the dominant operating system of corporate America. By producing a competitive operating system and touchscreen interface, Microsoft is defending against the threat of Apple taking market share in the business space. The touchscreen interface sets the stage for a comeback and penetration into the tablet/smartphone market.
Microsoft has embraced cloud computing. The move towards professionally secured server farms is inevitable, as a result of hacker groups, such as anonymous, targeting corporation's data centers. Corporations will look to outsource data security to increase protection and limit liability. Aside from the security reasons, cloud computing also provides a more efficient means of doing business. The acquisition of Skype, and the building of energy efficient data centers, defends Microsoft's hold on the corporate business environment, setting a foundation for growth.
3) FieldPoint Petroleum (FPP)
FieldPoint Petroleum (FPP) has varying ownership interest in approximately 300 wells located in Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming. The company just completed a well, in partnership with Cimarex (XEC), producing 446 barrels of oil in a 24 hour period. The well increased its production to 578 barrels on December 27, 2011. FieldPoint does well during periods when oil prices rise, creating returns in excess of 100%. The company will pay a dividend, consisting of one $4 warrant, callable at $6, on December 30, 2011.
4) Electronic Arts (EA)
Electronic Arts is moving into the freemium gaming model with Play4Free.com. The company stands to gain revenue throught the sale of virtual goods, much like Zynga (ZNGA). Zynga's main cost is in developing new products; this is where Electronic Arts has an excellent advantage. By incorporating old titles/brands into the Play4Free business, EA gains by recycling old titles into revenue generating freemium games.
Electronic Arts also released Star Wars: The Old Republic. Electronic Arts gains revenue through the sale of the game, the subscription based service, as well as through the sale and promotion of downloadable content. The game is showing initial success and will take market share away from Activision's (ATVI) World of Warcraft.
5) Discover Financial Services (DFS)
Discover Financial Services is a direct payment and banking services company. It offers credit cards, personal loans, deposit, and student loan services. The sentiment on Discover is bullish. The company continues to expand its card services. It has consistently beaten analysts' estimates throughout 2011. Its Pulse Network is a fully accepted method of payment within the market place.
I recently discussed in this article how Discover Financial Services is underpriced. The company is one of Credit Suisse's five best credit card companies for 2012. It has expanded into the global payment processing universe. It has a loyal customer base driven by an excellent rewards program.
Disclosure: I am long DFS, EA, FPP, MSFT, and AAPL.