3 Growth Stocks for Shrewd Investors – Motley Fool

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For seasoned, shrewd investors who do their homework, looking past one or two key metrics can sometimes unearth excellent long-term growth opportunities. Three growth stocks that some investors may have overlooked include data-security provider FireEye (NASDAQ:FEYE), Canada-based cloud e-commerce upstart Shopify (NYSE:SHOP), and oil and natural gas giant EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG).

Turning the corner

Tim Brugger (FireEye): CEO Kevin Mandia summed up the reason FireEye stock has soared 30% in 2017, saying, “We made continued progress on our path to profitability in the first quarter” on a number of fronts. Though revenue climbed just 3%, to $173.7 million, Mandia is making good on his promise to shave overhead, increase efficiency, and grow recurring revenue.

The second quarter, which FireEye is scheduled to announce Aug. 1, will be the first that its upgraded Helix end-to-end, cloud-based data-security solution was available to the masses. Helix is significant not only because of its cloud friendly out-of-the-box security features, but because it will also give FireEye’s push to build a foundation of software-based recurring revenue a boost. Ongoing revenue was a win last quarter, as FireEye’s subscription and services sales jumped 12%, to $150 million, equal to 86% of total revenue.

Operating expenses are still an issue, but the $180.85 million spent last quarter was a 29% drop compared to last year. The result was improved operating margins, which were negative 7% versus negative 44% last year, excluding one-time items. Not surprisingly, FireEye’s per-share losses also took a significant step in the right direction, improving to negative $0.48, less than half 2016’s $0.98 per-share loss.

Mandia’s only been at the helm for a year, but the impact he and FireEye management have already made bode well for the future. For shrewd long-term investors willing to look past the top line, FireEye is a growth stock worth considering.

Close-up picture of several stacks of gold coins.

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Simplifying online retail

Keith Noonan (Shopify): The ability to recognize and capitalize on trends is one of the characteristics that separates the shrewd investor from the pack. For as much as has been said about the rise of online retail and the decline of brick-and-mortar outlets, this transition is still in its early phases and will likely be hugely enriching for the companies that facilitate it. Despite growing 14.8% year over year, e-commerce accounted for just 8.4% of U.S. retail sales in the first quarter of 2017 according to the Department of Commerce. That points to big opportunities for online-retail-specialist Shopify.

The company provides an all-in-one sales platform for businesses that are looking to quickly and conveniently bring their wares to the net. For small and mid-sized companies that might not have the resources to develop and maintain their own sales portals, this has the potential to be a hugely valuable service — and one they’re likely to stick with once it’s adopted. The appeal isn’t limited to small businesses, either, with large companies, including AB InBev and Red Bull, also using Shopify as a portal for merchandise sales.

Looking at Shopify’s lofty price-to-forward sales ratio of 13 and explosive stock gains — shares are up roughly 250% since market close on its IPO day — is likely to discourage some investors, even in light of impressive sales growth. The company has the potential, however, to deliver tremendous returns for long-term investors willing to tolerate the associated risks. For an indication of just how promising the company’s market position is, consider the fact that online retail leader Amazon previously ran a competing service, but has since shuttered it, and is now partnered with Shopify. That’s quite the endorsement.

An oil-growth story you won’t want to miss

Matt DiLallo (EOG Resources): Crude oil is currently about $10 a barrel below where most in the industry expected it to be this year. Weighing on the price of crude is a glut of oil supplies, largely due to rising production from U.S. shale plays. That said, just because there’s too much oil at the moment doesn’t mean it will always be the case.

Shrewd investors know that low oil prices tend to spur new demand, while also causing producers to underinvest in new supplies. Because of that, a glut can quickly become a shortage. That’s just what the International Energy Agency sees on the horizon, noting earlier this year that “global oil supply could struggle to keep pace with demand after 2020, risking a sharp increase in prices, unless new projects are approved soon.”

That potential for significantly higher prices could be a boon for EOG Resources. Not only can the company grow at a rapid pace at lower oil prices, but it can accelerate its expansion pace as oil prices increase. Fueling that flexibility is its vast portfolio of premium return-drilling locations, which can earn a healthy 30% rate of return at $40 oil. EOG Resources expects that its drilling inventory can fuel 15% compound annual production growth through 2020, even if crude only averages $50 a barrel, which could accelerate to a 25% compound annual rate if crude averages $60 a barrel.

Unlike most competitors, EOG Resources can thrive at lower oil prices. Because of that, the company can grow at a healthy clip during the next few years, even if oil prices remain under pressure. That expanding output positions the company to cash in if prices surge due to a future undersupply — which is what makes it a compelling stock for growth-focused investors.

Keith Noonan has no position in any stocks mentioned. Matt DiLallo owns shares of Shopify. Tim Brugger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Shopify. The Motley Fool owns shares of EOG Resources. The Motley Fool recommends FireEye. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.