We talk about a lot of stocks over the course of the year, but this quartet is worth another look, writes Chloe Lutts of Dick Davis Investment Digest.
Every year, we ask all of our contributors to send us a recommendation of their single favorite stock to own in the coming year. Their submissions range from unknown small caps to the past year's winners, a broad range that reflects the wide variety of investing styles practiced by our contributors.
Once in July and again at the end of the year, we revisit the Top Picks to see what's working.
As of this writing (just shy of the end of the year), the best-performing Top Pick, with a gain of 53%, is a small-cap technology company called Allot Communications (ALLT). Ian Wyatt, editor of Small Cap Investor PRO, recommended Allot, which made its gains in the first six months of 2011. So it was already a winner at mid-year, when Wyatt wrote in an update:
I'm pleased with the continued growth of Allot Communications, which reported on Tuesday and beat earnings estimates by delivering EPS of 7 cents. The company grew revenues by 38% over the comparable quarter of 2010, and by 6% sequentially.
To bring more recent subscribers up to speed, Allot manages broadband networks to maximize their performance. Its customers are wireless cell phone operators around the world, and its competition includes companies like Blue Coat (BCSI) and Cisco Systems (CSCO).
The company is growing because its solutions help service providers manage their networks more efficiently—its products solve the pains that come with an overloaded network. With massive growth in mobile technologies, I don't see this trend ending anytime soon and believe Allot will continue to enjoy growing demand for its solutions.
There are now five analysts following Allot, and on average they believe the company will earn 26 cents in 2011 and 38 cents in 2012, on revenues of $71 million and $83 million, respectively. These projections would put revenue growth at 25% this year and 16% next.
I think Allot will do better. I'll bump up the price target on Allot to the consensus of $17.50—that's around 15% higher than shares currently trade. Allot is a buy on weakness.
Since then, Allot broke through the $17.50 level a few times, and even touched $19.15. Shares always meet resistance at those high levels, though, and they are now back between $16 and $17.
But as Wyatt wrote, this company is gaining admirers, and a strong move past $19 could signal the next phase of the up move for ALLT. This is certainly one to keep an eye on.
The second-best performer to date is also a small-cap technology stock. This one doesn't have any potential for new investors though: Global Defense Technology and Systems (GTEC) was acquired for $315 million in March 2011.
The acquisition provided a quick 48% gain for subscribers who had bought the shares when Geoffrey Eiten, editor of OTC Growth Stock Watch, recommended them in our January Top Picks issue.
The third-best performing Top Pick is also a technology stock. But unlike ALLT and GTEC, IAC/Interactive Corp. (IACI) made fairly steady gains all year, even as the market thrashed up and down. Originally recommended in the Top Picks issue by David Fried, editor of The Buyback Letter, at $29.41, IACI is now trading in the low $40s.
IAC/Interactive owns Ask.com and Match.com, in addition to other Internet properties. It's hard to tell if the stock's best days are behind or ahead of it—IACI's momentum is choppy but upward, as evidenced by a pattern of higher highs and higher lows. Watch to see what IACI does when the market breaks out of its trading range in 2012 (hopefully to the upside).
The fourth-best performer overall was featured in Dividend Digest. Chunghwa Telecom (CHT), recommended by Yiannis G. Mostrous in Global Investment Strategist, is up 35% year-to-date. Mostrous just updated his subscribers on Chunghwa Telecom on December 21, writing:
Taiwan's largest telecommunications provider, Chunghwa Telecom, in mid-December announced that its mobile communications division had crossed the 10 million subscriber mark.
Chunghwa Telecom also announced that it would spend 6 billion Taiwan dollars ($200 million) to boost its mobile network capacity—the first step on a path to cultivate a smartphone and "Internet of Things" subscriber base of 10 million. Internet of Things refers to network-enabled objects, such as refrigerators, and the web-based services that interact with these devices.
In 2011, Chunghwa Telecom spent $160 million on expanding and improving its mobile network. The company also said it would contribute $51 million to a consortium of Asian telecom companies to build high-speed submarine cables that will connect 11 areas in nine countries in the region.
The Asia Pacific Gateway project will build an underwater fiber-optic network that will begin commercial service by 2014. The cables will stretch 100,000 kilometers and will link Taiwan, China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.
Chunghwa Telecom said that its November unconsolidated sales fell 1.34% year over year to TWD15.7 billion ($519.9 million), without providing a reason for the decline. The company's total revenue in the third quarter rose 9.5% year over year to $1.9 billion, although net income declined 0.2% year over year to $406.8 million.
However, net income per American depositary receipt (ADR) rose 5% year over year to 51 cents, primarily due to a 20% reduction in outstanding shares. Chunghwa Telecom's operating profit declined 3.9% year over year, to $473.3 million.
The company's mobile business accounted for $810.2 million of total third-quarter revenue, an increase of 6.6% from the year-ago period. The company's mobile subscriber base rose 4% year over year in the third quarter, to 9.96 million, of which 5.83 million subscribers were 3G technology users.
These 3G users contributed to 40.5% yearly growth in mobile value-added services revenue, which came in at $133.7 million in the quarter. The company expects its mobile Internet subscriber base to reach 1.47 million by the end of 2011, compared to 1.32 million at the end of the third quarter.
The company's Internet segment accounted for $219.6 million in sales, up 0.6% year over year. The company is rapidly expanding its fiber network throughout Taiwan, with the aim of reaching 75% of the country's population by the end of the year.
The company's broadband subscriber base was 4.48 million at the end of the third quarter. Of this total, 51.8% of broadband users had signed up for the company's fiber network offerings. The company's rapid expansion of fiber coverage allowed it to achieve 1 million movie-on-demand subscribers in November, one month earlier than predicted. Chunghwa Telecom controls 80% of Taiwan's broadband market.
The company is utterly dominant in the fixed-line market, holding a 96% share of the local fixed-line segment and 77% of the long-distance fixed-line market. The company's domestic fixed-line segment grew revenue by 17.1% year over year to $699.7 million in the third quarter, while the international fixed-line communications segment saw revenue decline by 6% to $128.9 million.
However, a recent government ruling has shifted the pricing right for landline-to-mobile phone calls in favor of fixed-line operators, which has boosted Chunghwa Telecom's top line. Buy Chunghwa Telecom up to $35.
In addition to its appreciation potential, Chunghwa Telecom also offers large but intermittent dividends. Going forward, this company looks like a good pick for any investor.
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