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3 Stocks That Feel Like Microsoft in 1986

Keith Noonan, Daniel Miller, and Maxx Chatsko, The Motley Fool

Eleven years after the company's 1975 founding, Bill Gates and the team at Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) took the company public. If you had invested $1,000 in Microsoft on the day of its March 13, 1986 initial public offering, settled in for the long haul, and reinvested your dividends, your stock would be worth roughly $1.5 million today.

MSFT Total Return Price Chart

MSFT Total Return Price. Data source: YCharts.

That's an incredible performance and one few companies will ever come close to replicating -- but three Motley Fool investors have identified stocks with the potential to go on runs that could be reminiscent of Microsoft's. Read on to see why they think that Albermarle (NYSE: ALB), Control4 (NASDAQ: CTRL), and iQiyi (NASDAQ: IQ) could be poised for huge growth. 

An arrow moving up and to the right as it traces increases in a bar graph.

Image source: Getty Images.

Ride entertainment momentum in China

Keith Noonan (iQiyi): Like Microsoft was in 1986, iQiyi is fresh to the market as a publicly traded company. The streaming-video provider, which had its IPO at the end of March, has sometimes been called "the Netflix of China," though in truth its model is currently closer to Hulu's. The stock has been volatile in its first couple months, but I'm bullish on the long-term prospects.

In some ways, iQiyi looks more mature as a company than Microsoft did roughly three decades ago. The streaming-video company operates in a market that has established models to success, generated roughly $2.7 billion in sales last year and counts more than 420 million people as viewers, and was spun off from Chinese search giant Baidu -- meaning it's pretty far removed from scrappy, upstart status. However, while the streaming video service industry is more well defined than the computer business was in 1986, I still think iQiyi has paths to explosive growth and thus I purchased shares shortly after the company's market debut. 

iQiyi is growing sales at a fast clip, with overall sales up 57% year over year in its March-ended quarter and added-service revenue up 67% compared to the prior-year period. That's plenty impressive, and I think that iQiyi can continue to better monetize and expand the reach of its services.

Roughly 40% of China's population has yet to connect to the internet, suggesting that there's still a lot of potential for the company to grow its viewer base. iQiyi is also making progress on getting members on board with premium service offerings, and will likely see continued success on that front as the Chinese middle class undergoes rapid increases in size purchasing power. 

I'm a fan of companies that deal in creating and delivering content, and as tech ramps up and consolidation continues to reshape industries, iQiyi looks to be a promising business at the intersection of trends that can deliver big growth. 

Grabbing market share in an expanding market

Maxx Chatsko (Albemarle): The world's top lithium producer got rocked when analysts at Morgan Stanley projected that by 2025 the global market would be grossly oversupplied. Albemarle responded with a record first quarter for its lithium segment -- and market projections of its own.

For context, Morgan Stanley said the lithium market would be oversupplied by 2025 considering producers are expected to churn out 715,000 metric tons (MT) that year. To balance out the supply with demand, electric vehicles would need to hit an absurd 31% of all passenger vehicles sold that year, according to the investment bank. Albemarle countered by saying the total lithium market would be 800,000 MT by 2025, but that only 12.3% of passenger vehicles would need to wield even a moderate-sized battery to make the numbers work.

The wide discrepancy in projections could demonstrate that few really know where the lithium market will be by the middle of the next decade. Or it could show that the world's largest lithium producer has more insight into the market from the customers it supplies than Wall Street analysts.

Either way, Albemarle is ramping up its lithium output in two waves. After producing 65,000 MT in 2017, it wants to expand to 165,000 MT by 2021, then to 265,000 MT after that. That's rather impressive. Considering it accounted for 29% of the global market last year, producing 265,000 MT by 2025 would account for 33% of the global market, should it reach the company's projected volume. With selling prices high, sales volumes increasing, and a leading position in an important 21st century market, the astonishing growth could just be getting started for this stock.

Profiting from smart homes

Daniel Miller (Control4): If finding stocks about to go on the wild ride like Microsoft did over the past decades were that easy, we'd all be rich and retired by now. To find stocks similar to Microsoft, you'll have to look for stocks about to ride a long-term trend, and Control4 has a chance to do just that.

For those unaware of the company, Control4 is a leading global provider of automation and networking systems for homes and businesses -- basically it sells systems to run a slew of smart home devices seamlessly. These systems can control up to hundreds of devices and can cost between $1,000 to $50,000, and even more, to install professionally.

Currently, Control4 estimates its penetration in the U.S. to be 1.5%, but one upcoming strategy could help the company boost that number. Management unveiled certified showrooms in 140 locations worldwide. The showrooms are designed to usher homeowners and designers in the market for smart home solutions to the right products and install partner. The company believes the showrooms are "WOW-ing" homeowners with interactive storytelling, impressive displays, and hands-on demonstrations.

Time will tell if the showrooms dramatically improve sales leads and revenue, but there's no doubt business is already good. During the first-quarter Control4 recorded 17% growth in revenue, compared to the prior year, with its adjusted net income up 53%. It has $77 million in cash and no debt on the balance sheet, and boasts six successful acquisitions. Business is good, and Control4 has the potential to ride a long-term smart home trend that could prove very lucrative for investors.

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Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Keith Noonan owns shares of iQiyi. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Baidu and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Control4. The Motley Fool recommends iQiyi. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.