3 High Growth Stocks To Buy In The Pullback
- Upstart has fallen more than 50% from its highs. But its last earnings report wasn't that bad. The story is still intact and shares have derisked considerably.
- Zscaler continues to impress with recent results showing accelerated growth again. The shares went up immediately after the report but reversed down in the general wash out.
- Monday.com is a fairly new company and it also got hit by the market. Its high growth profile, rapidly improving profitability, and reasonable valuation makes it an interesting stock pick.
I started writing this article one week ago with the goal to review Upstart's recent quarterly results. Since in my last article, I argued that Upstart (NASDAQ:UPST) might still be an attractive buying opportunity at $390 a share, I wanted to check on the company (currently trading around $180 – yikes!).
However, the recent market sell-off, especially in high-growth names, made me reconsider the direction of the article. I think it is much more interesting right now to write about some high-growth names in my portfolio that I am considering adding during this little downturn.
A little caveat upfront, though. I am really bad at short-term calls (as evidenced by my recent Upstart article). I have no idea what the Omicron variant will do to our economy, what the Fed's monetary policy will be in the future and how far this sell-off will go eventually. By the time this article is published, the sell-off might already have reversed. Or it might have gotten much worse. I simply don't know.
What I do know is that there are companies in the public markets with exceptional business fundamentals that will do very well regardless of the macro environment. These are businesses with high growth rates, high margins, and long runways of growth. They also have high valuation multiples which lead to increased risk and high volatility. Taking advantage of that volatility is a great way to increase your returns. Here are some stocks that I consider buying right now:
Let's start with the one I originally wanted to write about: To summarize shortly, I think that if you liked Upstart at $390, you should like it much more at $180. The earnings release for Q3 2021 was not as bad as the market's reaction might suggest. Yes, expectations were lofty based on an exceptional Q2 report, and yes, these expectations were not entirely met in Q3. But that does not mean that the fundamental picture has deteriorated. What the wild price swings of the past prove, and I have written about in the past, is that this young company is difficult to value. Growth is high, but also hard to predict. And while the disruption of the FICO score through AI technology is enticing and seems inevitable, Upstart's role in that story is not set in stone.
Let's look at some numbers:
As you can see, revenue growth is still explosive, and with a normal beat should accelerate again into Q4 on a sequential basis. And while most key performance indicators (loans transacted, conversion rate, percentage of automated loans) together with margins all decelerated or went down slightly, I don't think that this means the fundamentals have changed with this company. There were many details mentioned in the earnings call that I won't discuss in this article format. But the key takeaway for me was that management seemed very upbeat about the future of the company.
I think there are two key mistakes that investors should avoid here:
- Let the disappointment of a "not-so-blowout" quarter and a devastating price action make you blind to this investment opportunity. This was still a very good quarter and now that the shares have fallen off a cliff the stock is much more attractive.
- Do not look at Upstart through the lens of SaaS businesses. As I wrote in May: Upstart might be a high-promising cloud software company but it does not have a SaaS business model. There is no recurring revenue to fall back on in tough times, no sticky subscription customers, no backlog, no land and expand. Every quarter Upstart has to sell new loans, and revenue basically starts from zero.
Upstart's financials are lumpier and less reliable and as a result, the company deserves much more investor attention and a lower valuation multiple than high growth companies with recurring revenues. However, if growth stays very high, it could more than make up for that fact. Currently, the company is trading at a 17.76 forward EV/S, which I think is a relative bargain for a company with this growth and margin profile.
Sometimes the market gives you a gift that you should not refuse. This is what happened with Zscaler (ZS) yesterday. The stock initially was up in the postmarket after the company reported another blow-out quarter on Tuesday. But on Wednesday it all didn't matter anymore and thanks to the little correction, sector rotation, or whatever you want to call it, the stock actually went down by more than 8%. This is really a time when you want to buy: You just got confirmation that your company is doing incredibly well with growth accelerating and the stock sells off for macro concerns. The stock is definitely not cheap at a forward EV/S of 43.51 and, of course, this "pull-back" is laughable ("oh my god, the stock is back to where it was...one month ago").
But I like to own companies that are doing exceptional things and I don't mind paying up for them, especially in a turbulent market.
How exceptional is Zscaler? Just look at those revenue growth numbers:
I thought in May that growth acceleration might end soon, but it has continued to accelerate in Q1 2022. If the company beats its guidance in Q2 in a similar fashion to the past (usually more than 5%), it should accelerate year-on-year growth again in Q2 (or at least maintain the current 60%+ growth rate). On top of that, this quarter saw RPO growing 98%, a dollar-based net retention rate of 125%, and FCF margins of 36%. In other words, this business is firing on all cylinders. If you don't know what Zscaler does, read my article from December 2018 – the stock is up 710% since then, and I think it can go even higher.
Monday.com (MNDY) is a company that is a relatively new stock in the public markets (it IPOed in June this year) and a completely new stock in my portfolio (I just bought my first position). In a nutshell, the reason why I bought Monday.com is their hyper-growth and rapidly improving profitability. Just look at these two slides from the most recent earnings call presentation:
Source: Earnings call presentation Q3 2021.
Revenue was up 95% (up from 94% in the last quarter). This is quite astounding growth which indicates that this company is winning in the market (but also consider that the company is at a small annual revenue run rate, which makes it a bit easier). The number of enterprise customers with more than $50K ARR was up 231% (at 613, up from 185 a year ago). Monday was also cash flow positive for the first time this quarter.
On top of that, it is also cheap relative to other cloud stocks:
Source: Clouded Judgement 11.26.21.
The company currently has a TTM EV/S of 57, and a 2022 EV/S of 38.7, based on analysts' expectation of 47% growth in 2022. That seems rich but not terribly so relative to other cloud names. The growth expectation of 47% in 2022, however, seems quite low if you consider the current growth of 95% year-on-year and 17% sequentially, plus the current momentum in larger customers. Actually, anything below 70% growth in FY 2022 would come as a surprise to me, and then we are looking at a maximum forward EV/S of 33.
The big question going forward – in terms of if Monday.com will be a good long-term investment – is to which extent Monday.com can maintain its high growth rate beyond FY 2022. Here I do have some doubts still. The company is operating in a very dynamic and competitive field and I am not yet sure where Monday differentiates itself meaningfully from companies like Asana (ASAN) or Atlassian (TEAM). Still, the market for cloud-based work management solutions is big and there can be many winners in the space. For the moment I'm happy to follow the numbers (which look fantastic) and hope that the relatively cheap valuation will result in substantial alpha and is not an indication of a lower quality company.
Closing Thoughts And Honorary Mentions
On days like these, there are many companies worth considering. For example, I haven't mentioned Datadog (DDOG) which reported another fantastic quarter at the beginning of November. Like Zscaler, this is also a company with accelerating growth that you can buy at a lower price than it was before it reported its blowout results.
Remember that the stocks mentioned, even though they may look attractive from a relative perspective, are still very expensive in absolute terms and from a historical perspective. However, sustainable growth is a beautiful form of downside protection for investors and the best antidote to "overvaluation" that I know. If I learned one thing in the last four years investing in high-growth SaaS/cloud stocks, it is to stay invested in the companies that sustain (or preferably accelerate) their top-line growth and get out of the stocks that see slowdowns. That sounds terribly simplistic and of course, many other factors play a role in a stock's long-term gains, but revenue growth and its endurance have been the predominant factors in the past.
This pull-back is far from the worst I have seen in recent years. But it is still painful – and when it starts to hurt, it is usually a good time to buy some quality companies.
This article was written by
Analyst’s Disclosure: I/we have a beneficial long position in the shares of UPST, ZS, MNDY, DDOG either through stock ownership, options, or other derivatives. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Seeking Alpha's Disclosure: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. Any views or opinions expressed above may not reflect those of Seeking Alpha as a whole. Seeking Alpha is not a licensed securities dealer, broker or US investment adviser or investment bank. Our analysts are third party authors that include both professional investors and individual investors who may not be licensed or certified by any institute or regulatory body.