After the stock market’s phenomenal five-year bull run, finding undiscovered gems today is no easy feat. But we expect the earnings of the companies below to rise significantly faster than the 10.2-percent average annual earnings growth predicted for Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index over the next three years.
Actavis PLC (symbol ACT; recent price, $223). This generic drug firm spent $8.5 billion last year to buy brand-name drugmaker Warner Chilcott. In February, Actavis announced another blockbuster acquisition: a $25 billion deal to buy Forest Laboratories. With the mergers, Actavis’s annual revenues should reach $15 billion, up from just $3.6 billion in 2010. Analysts on average expect earnings of $13.63 per share this year, rising 22 percent, to $16.61 per share, in 2015. Profits will be helped in part by the low tax rate Actavis now enjoys after changing its registration from the U.S. to Ireland. Wall Street clearly likes Actavis’ strategy: The stock soared from $100 in the spring of 2013 to $230 by early 2014, before pulling back. Ken Cacciatore, analyst at Cowen & Co., thinks Actavis will build up its brand-name drug portfolio via acquisitions, boosting its ability to generate cash for shareholders in the next few years. He says the stock could be worth as much as $255 within 12 months.
LinkedIn (LNKD; $170). Social-media companies are here to stay, but concern about potential flameouts has deepened. High on the list of this year’s losers is professional-networking leader LinkedIn. After peaking at $258 last fall, LinkedIn’s shares have slid. Besides being caught in the general rout of tech stocks, LinkedIn has spooked some investors by showing signs that its red-hot growth of the past few years is slowing. But Wall Street analysts still project annualized earnings gains of 33 percent over the next three years. Why bet they’re right? One reason is the 300 million people worldwide who have joined LinkedIn — in theory, at least, to enhance their career prospects. If the future of business networking and recruiting is increasingly online, LinkedIn is in a sweet spot to sell more services to both workers and employers. What’s more, LinkedIn is just beginning to ramp up its presence in China. All in all, the company has “a clear path for long-term growth,” says analyst Kerry Rice, of Needham & Co. The question suggested by this year’s stock-price swoon: What price for that growth?Tom Petruno is a freelance writer for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.