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3 Growth Stocks for in-the-Know Investors

Keith Noonan, Leo Sun, and Maxx Chatsko, The Motley Fool

With trade disputes dominating headlines and major indexes still not far off from record highs set earlier this year, some investors are understandably shifting their holdings to limit downside risk. However, operating with the idea that growth-dependent stocks can't present great value in the current market could also be a recipe for missing out on compelling businesses that trade at substantial discounts relative to their long-term potential.

In this roundtable, three Motley Fool investors have identified stocks that they believe have underappreciated strengths and tremendous long-term potential. Read on to see why they think Weibo (NASDAQ: WB), iQiyi (NASDAQ: IQ), and Royal Gold (NASDAQ: RGLD) are top stocks for growth-seeking investors.

An arrow moving up and to the right over a pile of cash.

Image source: Getty Images.

Give "China's Twitter" a chance

Leo Sun (Weibo): Weibo is often called "China's Twitter," but the microblogging platform more closely resembles a hybrid mix of Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. Online media company SINA spun off Weibo in 2014, and it subsequently flourished as it attracted top celebrities, expanded deeper into rural markets, and secured pre-installed app deals with smartphone makers.

Weibo's monthly active users (MAUs) grew nearly 21% annually to 411 million last quarter. By comparison, Twitter's MAUs rose just 3% to 336 million last quarter. Weibo attributes that growth to fresh marketing campaigns, an expansion of its streaming video ecosystem, and the continued usage of the platform by top celebrities and influencers.

Weibo's revenue and non-GAAP earnings rose 75% annually to $1.15 billion last year, and its non-GAAP earnings surged 121% to $405.7 million. Its GAAP earnings surged 226% to $352.6 million. Analysts expect its revenue and earnings to climb another 58% and 57%, respectively, this year. Those are explosive growth rates for a stock trading at 22 times forward earnings.

Nonetheless, Weibo's stock has tumbled 15% this year, mainly due to escalating trade tensions between the U.S. and China. Those concerns are overblown, since Weibo is well-insulated from those clashes.

A more pressing issue is government regulation. Chinese regulators repeatedly forced Weibo to tighten its rules and hire more censors in the past. But for now, Weibo is still appeasing the regulators without alienating its core users. As long as Weibo maintains that delicate balancing act, it should remain a great long-term growth play.

Tap into China's growing entertainment market

Keith Noonan (iQiyi): Sometimes referred to as "the Netflix of China," iQiyi stock rose quickly following its March initial public offering (IPO) thanks to a string of favorable announcements and the promise of the Middle Kingdom's rapidly growing entertainment market. However, its share price has recently cooled off.

IQ Chart

IQ data by YCharts.

iQiyi is still up roughly 75% from its $18 IPO price, but the stock has lost roughly a third of its value over the last several weeks -- with much of the recent sell-offs seemingly tied to a worsening outlook for trade relations between the U.S. and China. These developments are something investors should keep an eye on, but the imposition of new tariffs and other trade-related regulatory moves will likely have a relatively small direct impact on iQiyi's business.

As a company that's primarily operating in the entertainment space, there's less risk of being hit by tariffs and regulations -- which have mostly focused on physical goods like steel, food products, and semiconductors. iQiyi's focus on serving its local market should also lessen the impact of international trade disputes. 

The Chinese company already counts more than 420 million viewers across its platform, with more than 61 million paying users as of its last announcement and the remainder on an ad-supported service. That's up from the five million paying users it had in June 2015, and there's still plenty of room for expansion. Advertising for online video is also expected to see strong, continued growth, with PricewaterhouseCoopers having estimated that the internet ad market will have grown at a compound aggregate growth rate of 13.9% from 2015 to 2020.

While the company's video-streaming offerings are what it's currently most known for, iQiyi also has a bigger multimedia presence than many realize, providing its users with graphic novels and video-game content. China's entertainment industry is poised for huge growth over the long term, and I think time will recast iQiyi stock as substantially undervalued at current prices. 

A gold stock that can beat the market

Maxx Chatsko (Royal Gold): A lot of investors are drawn to gold stocks, but I wonder if most are aware that gold mining stocks have a downright awful track record of creating shareholder value. In fact, almost all have failed to beat the returns of the S&P; 500 over the last three-, five-, and 10-year periods. But there is one group in the industry that bucks the trend: gold streaming stocks.

Royal Gold is one such company. In the last five years, it has put up total returns of 137%, compared to 87% for the S&P 500. That's supported by a healthy and growing business.

In fiscal 2017, it delivered record annual revenue ($441 million), net income ($102 million), and cash flow ($266 million) -- and it didn't lift a single shovel. That's because gold streaming companies provide financing to gold miners bringing growth projects online, then agree to purchase precious metals production at a fixed price in long-term contracts. As evidenced by the ability to convert 23% of revenue into net income, the business model is inherently low-cost, and the agreements are wildly favorable. 

While the company's fiscal 2018 financial performance has been affected by a massive non-cash impairment charge for a gold streaming asset that is expected to be delayed indefinitely, Royal Gold has still put up a solid operational performance.

The dividend has grown, now sporting a yield of 1.1%. Higher selling prices have boosted revenue 8% and allowed the company to continue nudging its debt balance closer to zero. Meanwhile, important gold mines for which the business has streaming and royalty contracts are coming online in the second half of 2018 and in 2019, which will provide near- and long-term growth for shareholders. Simply put, investors looking for growth while owning a piece of the gold industry should dive deeper into Royal Gold. 

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Keith Noonan owns shares of iQiyi. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook and Twitter. The Motley Fool recommends iQiyi, Sina, and Weibo. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.