Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) is a Goliath, but it's going to be a lot harder for the company to grow from here given that its market cap is already almost $450 billion. Therefore, instead of buying Alibaba, our Motley Fool investors think you ought to be investing in HubSpot (NYSE: HUBS), Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ: TTWO), and Weibo (NASDAQ: WB).
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Putting customers and businesses together
Dan Caplinger (HubSpot): Alibaba has made a name for itself by finding ways to appeal to its customers. HubSpot aims to do the same thing for businesses, helping them revolutionize their sales efforts. Rather than having to go out and prospect for would-be clients, businesses turn to HubSpot to come up with ways to publish and promote content that will be appealing to potential customers.
With HubSpot's help, that information goes out to the people who are looking for it, and when those people get the answers they need, the natural next step is to get help from the businesses responsible for providing those answers in the first place.
HubSpot does have some risks involved with it, as critics of the company have pointed to some things they find less than attractive about corporate culture. Yet from a business perspective, HubSpot has been producing strong growth, attracting thousands of subscribers and ensuring an ongoing stream of recurring revenue for years into the future.
Marketing will continue to evolve, and HubSpot will have to make sure it can keep up with advances as they occur. Right now, though, it is in the sweet spot of using the internet for the good of users and businesses alike, and that could keep it on its current trajectory for quite a while.
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Winning the long-term game
Demitri Kalogeropoulos (Take-Two Interactive): Take-Two's weaker portfolio has traditionally made its business more volatile than video game rivals, Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI) and Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA). Yet it is poised to benefit from the same powerful trends that have produced soaring profits for these successful developers.
Investors can see evidence of the boost at work in Take-Two's recent results. Rising engagement levels helped revenue spike 34% last quarter and, since more of that business came from direct digital sales, profitability surged as well. In fact, gross profit margin jumped to 54% from 38% in the prior-year period. The company's best-known franchise, Grand Theft Auto, was a key driver of the growth. But Take-Two also received a big assist from the NBA 2K17 title, which has now become its best-selling sports game to date.
The company will need a long string of wins like that if it's going to grow to its revenue base to anything approaching the over $5 billion annual sales that EA and Activision enjoy today. The next big installment in the Grand Theft Auto franchise will help that quest, but the real gains require Take-Two to fill out its portfolio over time. But the sales improvement that produces, in addition to the expanding profitability it's already seeing, could make this business a far stronger one in just a few years.
Riding the social media wave in China
Todd Campbell (Weibo): Alibaba's market cap is nearly 20 times bigger than Weibo's, but here's why I think Weibo will close that gap.
First, Weibo is growing revenue faster than Alibaba now. Weibo's growth rate overtook Alibaba's earlier this year and its sales last quarter jumped 72.5% from a year ago.
Second, Weibo's leveraging that sales growth against fixed costs at a rate that's producing faster earnings growth than Alibaba. Last quarter, Weibo's EPS shot up 175% from the same time last year, while Alibaba's grew 80%.
Third, Weibo's arguably got more room to grow than Alibaba. People want to communicate and that communication is increasingly happening online. Weibo's microblogging and video service provide an ideal outlet for sharing information, including when users are on the move. Weibo's mobile investments have paid off with 74% year-over-year growth in mobile active users, and advertisers are paying attention. Over 70% of its ad revenue came from mobile last quarter.
If you still want to profit from Alibaba instead of Weibo, perhaps you can have your cake and eat it, too. Alibaba's a Weibo customer, and last quarter, revenue from Alibaba accounted for $13.2 million of Weibo's $253 million in sales.
Given Weibo's user base of 361 million people, up 28% year over year, and a market that includes over 1 billion people, I think Weibo's valuation is going higher. Does this mean Weibo's a risk-free stock to buy? Of course not. There are plenty of risks associated with running a communication platform in China. Nevertheless, I can't help but think that Weibo can overcome any quarter-to-quarter bumps along the road, and if I'm right, then stashing this stock away long term could be smart.
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Dan Caplinger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Demitrios Kalogeropoulos owns shares of Activision Blizzard. Todd Campbell has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. His clients may have positions in the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Activision Blizzard and Take-Two Interactive Software. The Motley Fool recommends Electronic Arts, HubSpot, and Weibo. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.