Risk is unavoidable -- however, several stocks have positioned themselves in a way that still offers growth potential while mitigating risk, unlike high-growth stocks that are years away from profitability but consistently "wow" investors with stunning top-line growth.
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Software design king Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE), cloud infrastructure provider Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO), and data security leader Check Point Software (NASDAQ: CHKP), have opted for a different approach to growing their respective businesses. For investors who appreciate reliable, relatively predictable profitability, you'll love these three stocks.
Told you so
When Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen made the decision over four years ago to switch from a software sales to a cloud-based, subscription-only business model, designers were outraged. How dare Narayen pull the rug out from underneath Adobe's loyal design customers and make them pay an average of about $50 a month for its solutions.
Investors weren't necessarily happy, either, given that at $50 a month, give or take, Adobe's top line was going to take a near-term hit. Fast-forward to today, and it's apparent Narayen's gamble has paid off in spades. Adobe's $1.77 billion in sales last quarter was an impressive 27% jump from a year ago and helped boost its stock to what has become a 52% gain in 2017. But Adobe's top line wasn't the best part of its stellar quarter.
A jaw-dropping $1.48 billion of Adobe's revenue was from its stable software subscriptions, a 37% improvement over a year ago. Adobe's operating expenses only increased 20%, much of which was funding new, cutting-edge technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) features. Servicing clients costs less than relying on product sales, and Adobe shareholders are reaping the rewards.
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A recurring theme
Unlike Adobe, Cisco stock is up just 7% this year, due largely to declining total revenue which investors witnessed again last quarter. Cisco reported $12.1 billion in sales in its fiscal fourth quarter, a 4% drop year over year. Excluding one-time items, earnings per share (EPS) dropped 3% to $0.61 from last year's $0.63 a share. Not much to get excited about, right?
Thing is, CEO Chuck Robbins is in the early stages of implementing his own recurring revenue model, and that takes time. Already, $3.75 billion of Cisco's sales are recurring, equal to 31% of total revenue, which was a nice improvement from last year's 27%. In what has become a recurring theme, adjusted operating expenses, another Cisco initiative, dropped 7% last quarter.
A couple more arrows in Cisco's quiver were the 12% jump in deferred revenue to $18.5 billion, which bodes well for its recurring revenue push, along with continuing to pay one of the tech industry's best dividends of 3.6%. It's early, but Cisco is on the right path and offers investors little risk and a ton of potential reward.
Last but not least
Last year's somewhat disappointing data security market is gone, which is just one reason Check Point Software's stock is up 32% in 2017. Second-quarter sales of $459 million marked a surprising 8% increase, which for Check Point is bordering on stellar. Why? Because like Adobe and Cisco's early stage shift to reliable recurring revenue, Check Point founder and CEO Gil Shwed is all about subscriptions.
Check Point's product revenue inched up 1% to $138.3 million in the second quarter, but that was more than made up by its whopping 27% rise in subscription sales to $118 million. Toss in Check Point's software servicing revenue of $202.34 million, and a full 70% of total sales are now subscription-related.
Shwed's focus on ongoing revenue is also falling directly to Check Point's bottom line. Last quarter's EPS climbed 18% to $1.21 a share, something Check Point shareholders are becoming accustomed to. Check Point, like Adobe and Cisco, may not have the flash of some of its competitors, but if you hate risk you'll love all three of these stocks.
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Tim Brugger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Check Point Software Technologies. The Motley Fool recommends Adobe Systems and Cisco Systems. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.