The Russell 2000 index, the benchmark for small-cap investing, is officially in correction. The index is down 14% from its 52-week high point. At the same time, the S&P 500 is only 4% down, making an odd juxtaposition that signals investors are reluctant to back smaller companies. Tavis McCourt, of Raymond James, describes the current market environment as “a classic liquidity premium, and noticeable in all recent periods of global economic fear.”
Aside from the economic implications, this situation makes it all too easy to miss some fine investments among the smaller tech firms. We’ll take a look here at three small-cap tech companies from the TipRanks Stock Screener, that merit close attention from investors. Two have shown sustained gains, and the third has shown a recent jump after strong earnings. All three offer innovative products in the cloud computing industry.
Okta, Inc. (OKTA)
Okta went public just two years ago, in 2017, and has since reached a market cap of $14.6 billion. The company specialized in identity and access management, offering cloud-based solution for managing user authentication and identity controls. Earlier this year, Okta boasted over 100 million registered users on its networks. Since going public, OKTA shares have appreciated steadily, and the stock is now trading at over 5 times its initial value.
All of that makes OKTA a compelling buy. Cowen’s Nick Yako lays out a vigorously bullish case for this fast-growing tech company. He writes, “Large enterprise adoption remains a key driver for the company. OKTA continues to add customers at a healthy clip, adding 450 net new customers in the quarter… The company also continues to have success growing its enterprise customer base, which it defines as customers with average contract value (ACV) of $100K+. Moreover, OKTA added 80 new enterprise customers in the quarter, as large customer growth once again outpaced overall customer growth.” His price target, $150, suggests room for 23% more growth.
Needham analyst Alex Henderson agrees that OKTA is a strong buy and a growth case. While he does not set a price target, he does say, “Expect 31-34% growth for the October quarter, which leaves plenty of room for upside.”
Okta’s analyst consensus rating is a Moderate Buy, derived from 8 buys and 4 holds. OKTA shares are selling for $121, and the average price target of $141 suggests a 16.8% upside.
Coupa Software, Inc. (COUP)
Coupa has quickly positioned itself as a leader in Business Spend Management, offering cloud software that permits managers to track and control the money and resources companies spend. It’s a niche market, but one with true potential, as Coupa offers a service that every business absolutely needs. The company’s growth tells the tale: in the last three years, COUP has climbed from $29 per share to $146. Even the market correction in the second half of 2018 did not seriously derail Coupa’s upward trajectory.
Writing from Oppenheimer, 5-star analyst Koji Ikeda notes “the strong momentum the business is displaying will likely continue in the future unabated, and with Pay generating strong initial interest, more "good results" are on the way.” Ikeda also appreciated that the company has recently raised its growth outlook. In turn, he raised his price target by 6.25%, to $170, suggesting an upside potential of 14%.
RBC Capital’s Alex Zukin is also bullish on Coup, giving the stock a $165 target and 11% upside. He says, “The company's best-in-class position in application platform, along with a large networked user/supplier community make it a legitimate market standard... We believe that Coupa Software has a long runway toward sustaining growth rate of over 30% and meaningful near-term upside potential.”
Overall, COUP shares hold a Moderate Buy from the analyst consensus. This rating is based on 10 buys and 4 holds given in the past three months. The average price target of $157 implies a 5.7% upside premium from the share price of $148.
Box, Inc. (BOX)
Of the stocks in this list, BOX carries the highest risk. Box is another cloud software company, offering content management and file sharing as its specialty. The company has been volatile in the past year, and operates at a loss, but the Q2 earnings report showed spots of good news. Revenues, at $172.5 million, were well above the $169.5 million forecast, up 20% year-over-year. The guidance for the current quarter was set at $174 to $175 million – far above the $73.6 expected. Full-year revenue guidance is also bullish, at $690+ million.
Company CEO Aaron Levie said in the earnings call, “With the combination of a large installed base of enterprise customers, strong product roadmap and advanced capabilities and focus on improved sales productivity, we feel confident in our ability to capitalize on the opportunities ahead.” His optimism was shared by investors, and BOX shares have gained 23% since the quarterly report.
It’s a bullish picture, but Chad Bennett of Craig-Hallum set out the bear case: “The time has come for material changes in leadership… Box is potentially an activist investor's dream, but five of the nine board members being founders or venture capitalizes presents a bit of a roadblock.” Bennett says to Hold this stock, with a price target of $15.
Well Fargo analyst Philip Winslow makes the case for the bulls. His $20 price target implies an upside of 14% for the stock, and explains, “We see two primary avenues to potentially unlock shareholder value, namely growth versus margin and M&A.”
Overall, BOX has a Moderate Buy from the analyst consensus, based on 4 buys and 3 holds. Shares are continuing to gain, and the price is up to $17.41 after the bullish quarterly report, slightly above the $17 average price target.
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