The stock market is up more than 20% over the last three years. A few stocks have done far better than that solid return, though. Here's a look at three companies, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Constellation Brands (NYSE: STZ), and Ulta Beauty (NASDAQ: ULTA), that have at least doubled over the same time frame.
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Facebook was already worth almost $200 billion in market capitalization by mid-2014. However, its spectacular growth over the past few years has shown that even huge companies can deliver outsized gains for investors.
The social media giant's annual revenue has more than doubled to $28 billion in the last three fiscal years. Its net income, meanwhile, has soared to $10.2 billion, or 37% of sales, from $2.9 billion, or 23% of sales, back then.
Many factors went into generating those market-thumping gains, but the biggest driver has been sharp growth in both the size and engagement level of Facebook's user base. The social media king today counts over 2 billion active users, up from 1.2 billion at the start of 2014. These people are interacting with the service much more frequently, too.
That extra interaction is taxing Facebook's data network, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his team are happy to shell out the extra money so that the company can deliver a more engaging social experience through premium media like video and virtual reality, in the years ahead.
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Five years ago, Constellation Brands made a risky acquisition, spending almost $5 billion for the U.S. rights to a Mexican beer portfolio that included the hit Corona and Modelo brands. The purchase has done wonders for its business.
Revenue has tripled since 2013, and operating margin bubbled up to 30% of sales last year -- from 20% -- as Constellation Brands benefited from soaring demand for premium imported beer.
The positive momentum has carried on into 2017, with spiking beer revenue driving earnings up 29% in the most recent quarter. Management is hoping to spark faster growth in the wine segment over the next few quarters. At the same time, investors are hoping for more market share gains and rising profitability as Constellation Brands' new Mexican beer breweries come online this year and next.
Ulta Beauty's stock has plunged recently as investors worry that its streak of awesome retailing gains might soon be coming to an end. There's not much evidence of that occurring so far, though.
Yes, the beauty supply and salon services specialist's customer traffic growth slowed to a 6% pace last quarter from 9%. However, the company still beat management's growth guidance and raised its full-year sales target for the second straight time.
Over the coming years, it's clear that Ulta Beauty will be leaning more heavily on its online business to deliver sales gains. That segment appears up to the task, with revenue up 72% last quarter alone.
CEO Mary Dillon and her team believe the digital sales channel will expand by as much as 60% for the full year. Over the long term, executives still see room for 1,700 retailing locations around the U.S., up from the 1,000 in the mix today.
Which could double again?
That growth potential is a big reason I think Ulta Beauty has the best shot of doubling again. Sure, a collapse in customer traffic numbers would threaten its business momentum. But selling the stock on that fear, given record profitability and a rising comps forecast, is a mistake that I believe investors would come to regret a few years from now.
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