Early-stage companies spend many years planning for the day when everything clicks. For a number of them, 2012 could be the year when all their hard work pays off. So I decided to look at companies set to see sales rise more than 200% next year.
Most of the companies in the table below each already sport market values of more than $400 million, so they're no mere wallflowers. Clearly, they already hold great promise for some investors. If they can actually deliver on the strong growth expected of them, shares may surge.
Stay away from these stocks...
Of course, you should take some of these forecasts with a grain of salt. Alimera Sciences (Nasdaq: ALIM) has a promising device (an insertable tube that delivers steroids directly into the eye for those suffering from diabetes-related blindness), but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been dragging its feet on approval.
Some think the company's product, Illuvien, may never get the green light and those lofty sales forecasts will never come to fruition. Still others think Illuvien will be approved and see annual sales approach $300 million in coming years. If that happens, shares would likely double or triple from today's levels.
In a similar vein, Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA) will have to sell a lot of cars in 2012 to meet expectations of scorching sales growth. Yet competition in the electric car market is getting awfully crowded. Privately-held Fisker Automotive is aiming directly for Tesla at the high end of the market with a new model to be released this month, and firms such as Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are ramping up electric offerings in coming years as well. I'm in the camp that feels Tesla will be unable to sell enough cars to become profitable.
Consider these stocks instead...
Yet a pair of companies in the health field clearly have the makings of robust growth in 2012 -- and beyond.
Little-known Pacific Biosciences (Nasdaq: PACB) has developed a technology platform that can rapidly sequence strands of DNA at a lower cost than rivals. That was the promise held by rival Illumina (Nasdaq: ILMN), which is now worth more than $8 billion, more than eight times the value placed on Pacific Biosciences. To be sure, Illumina spent the first half of the past decade falling short of sales forecasts before sales finally took off in recent years. So there's still a chance Pacific Biosciences struggles to meet aggressive growth expectations in the near-term.
Pacific Biosciences has secured pre-orders for $24 million worth of equipment and has a decent shot of hitting 2011 sales forecasts of $38 million. But to meet the 2012 sales forecast of $139 million, the sales force needs to start moving at a more rapid clip. Longer-term, annual sales could exceed $500 million (rival Illumina had $666 million in sales last year), at which point, per-share profits could exceed $3 or $4 and shares would be twice as high as they are now. When that happens, though, is an open question.
In a similar vein, Savient Pharma (Nasdaq: SVNT) may be looking at a very large market opportunity with its gout drug, Krystexxa, which helps alleviate gout-related pain and inflammation in patients who don't respond to other forms of treatment. Savient would have preferred to be acquired. When the company announced in late October that no takers were found, shares quickly plunged from $21 to $12 and now sit around $10.
Yet it's too soon to write Savient off. The company's team of 60 sales people just started selling Krystexxa at the end of February, and investors will start to more clearly see the drug's demand in coming quarters.
The real promise for Savient lays in the nature of gout. Cases of the arthritic condition have been rising quickly, particularly among U.S. males, likely due to a corresponding increase in the current spikes in diabetes and obesity in America. Once a patient starts suffering from gout, the disease can wield painful, but short-lived episodes. However, gout attacks have a tendency to become more frequent and painful with time and it is considered to be an irreversible condition once it reaches later stages.
Savient's Krystexxa has proven more effective in treating extreme gout pain than any other drug on the market, leading analysts at Global Hunter Securities to predict annual sales may eventually exceed $500 million. (As a note of caution, there are other promising gout treatments undergoing clinical testing, and if they reach the market, Krystexxa's potential opportunity would shrink.)
Savient is unlikely to be profitable before 2013, so patience will be required. Then again, the company still may end up in the hands of a suitor long before then and deliver big share price gains in the process.
Action to Take --> The key for high-growth stocks is to avoid hiccups. Rare is the company that can deliver an uninterrupted string of rising quarterly sales. [Andy Obermueller, editor of Game-Changing Stocks, is diligent to remind his readers about this when looking for outsized gains.]
All of the names in the above-cited table are great companies to put on your watch list. If they stumble and shares take a beating, then investors will be treated with a nice entry point before growth resumes. Of the stocks in this column, Pacific Biosciences and Savient Pharma present especially large long-term opportunities for investors.