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John Dorfman

Cirrus Logic, Lam Research show rapid revenue growth

John Dorfman
| Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

The bottom line — profit — is always the bottom line. But the top line — sales or revenue — is important, too.

Profits, also known as earnings, can grow for a while without strong top-line growth. A company can cut costs or resort to accounting gimmicks. But for strong and sustained growth in profits, you need top-line growth.

This is the third column I've done on companies that can flaunt rapid revenue growth. So far, I have two strikes against me.

My rapid-revenue-growth picks from a year ago rose 13 percent. Golden Entertainment Inc. (GDEN), and Toll Brothers Inc. (TOL) rose 59 percent and 35 percent, respectively. Baidu Inc. (BIDU) also did fine, up 23 percent. But Antero Resources Corp. (AR) fell 20 percent, and Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. ruined the party with a 32 percent loss.

Defeat and conceit

A 13 percent overall return sounds fine, until you consider that the overall market, as measured by the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, was up 16.6 percent in the 12 months from July 26, 2016, to July 26, 2017.

The previous year was worse. My picks fell 7.3 percent while the S&P 500 rose 4.5 percent.

Bear in mind that my column recommendations are theoretical and don't reflect actual trades, trading costs or taxes. Their results shouldn't be confused with the performance of portfolios I manage for clients. And past performance doesn't predict future results.

So here I am, batting with two strikes. Call me conceited, but I believe that this series of columns will catch up in performance with some of my more successful series.

Here are five new picks of stocks that show rapid revenue growth.

Cirrus Logic

Cirrus Logic Inc. (CRUS), based in Austin, Texas, designs semiconductor chips, especially ones used in audio transmission (mobile phones, car radios and many other applications). It has nearly quadrupled its revenue since 2012 and has a 10-year revenue growth rate of 30 percent.

Cirrus's profit margins have shrunk over the years, even as revenue has leaped. However, it remains strongly profitable, with a 27 percent return on equity in the latest 12 months. At 14 times earnings, I think the stock is reasonably priced.

Lam Research

Lam Research Inc. (LRCX) is a leader in the “etch” segment of the semiconductor industry. In layman's terms, it makes machines that map and carve out the tiny grooves into which are fitted the microscopic parts that make up a semiconductor chip.

Lam's sales, less than $4 billion in 2013, are expected to exceed $9 billion in 2018. They would be more than doubling in five years. The company earned a return on equity in the past year of better than 26 percent, which is outstanding.

Unlike some tech stocks, Lam isn't terribly expensive, selling for about 17 times earnings.

Meritage Homes

I'm sweet on the whole homebuilding industry. One homebuilder that boasts rapid revenue growth is Meritage Homes Corp. (MTH) of Scottsdale, Ariz. Its revenue growth has averaged 25 percent over the past five years.

Meritage concentrates on the South and West regions of the United States, which have been strong growth regions. Rebuilding after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey might add to demand.

Because investors still are stung by the memory of the homebuilding bust of 2006-09, the stock sells for pretty modest multiples — about 12 times earnings and 0.5 times revenue.

Superior Uniform

Superior Uniform Group Inc. (SGC), based in Seminole, Fla., makes uniforms and sells them to hospitals, restaurants and other businesses. The small size of this company makes it a speculative pick, but the business is pretty steady. And the company's profitability has improved markedly over the past five years.

The company is almost completely neglected by Wall Street. But that's not a bad thing. Some academic research suggests that companies followed by few or no analysts tend to outperform the general market.

Skyworks Solutions

A debt-free choice is Skyworks Solutions Inc. (SWKS) of Woburn, Mass. It designs semiconductors for wireless communications, a hot area, and has shown annual revenue growth of about 15 percent a year over the past decade, and about 20 percent over the past five years.

The stock is a bit expensive for my taste at five times book value (corporate net worth per share), but two of my colleagues own it for clients. They are drawn not only by its rapid growth but also its high profitability and debt-free balance sheet.

Disclosure: Almost all of my clients own Lam Research, and I also own it. I own Golden Entertainment for one client and Toll Brothers for a few clients. As noted, some of our clients own Skyworks Solutions.

John Dorfman is chairman of Dorfman Value Investments LLC in Newton Upper Falls, Mass., and a syndicated columnist. His firm or clients may own or trade securities discussed in this column. He can be reached at .

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