Cloud computing, cybersecurity and marijuana: Industries to invest


Sean Williams, The Motley Fool
Published 3:01 a.m. MT Oct. 11, 2020

These high-growth industries are essentially election-proof.

The big day is now less than four weeks away. In 26 days, Americans across the country will head to the polls or mail in their ballots to determine who’ll lead the country for the next four years. Though Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden has a tidy advantage in polling over incumbent Republican Donald Trump, we learned in 2016 that anything can happen come Election Day.

The big question likely on the minds of investors is, “What should I do if Trump wins a second term or Biden upends Trump?” While there are a lot of scenarios playing out before our eyes, there are a few high-growth industries that are going to prosper no matter who wins the presidency. Whether it’s Donald Trump or Joe Biden being sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021, these three industries look like surefire winners.

Cloud Computing

There arguably hasn’t been a hotter industry in 2020 than cloud computing. With the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) completely disrupting the traditional office and pushing workers into remote environments, it’s become more important than ever for businesses, big and small, to have a cloud-centric presence. That’s not going to change anytime soon, and may even accelerate regardless of who wins the coming election.

Within cloud computing, the fastest-growing and most-coveted of all companies by investors tends to be the software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers. Two great examples of SaaS stocks that won’t bat an eye this election season are salesforce.com and Datadog.

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Salesforce.com is the preeminent name in customer relationship management (CRM) services. With businesses shifting online in droves during the pandemic, salesforce has capitalized. Sales rose 29% in the second quarter from the prior-year period, with the company having little issue signing up new customers and garnering higher revenue from existing clients. 

The tale is the same for Datadog and its application performance monitoring solutions. The accelerated shift into the cloud sent Datadog’s customer count with at least $100,000 in annual recurring revenue (ARR) rocketing higher from 594 in the year-ago quarter to 1,015 by the end of June 2020. Datadog has firmly pushed into adjusted profitability, and it isn’t looking back. 

Cybersecurity

 (Photo: Getty Images)

No discussion of surefire winners would be complete unless the cybersecurity industry receives a big nod of approval. Hackers and robots don’t take time off, no matter how well or poorly the U.S. economy is performing, or how big or small a business happens to be. This means protecting in-house and cloud networks has become a basic-need service. Regardless of who wins come November, cybersecurity growth is going to remain robust.

One way to approach investing in cybersecurity is to purchase a broad-based solutions provider like Palo Alto Networks. Even though Palo Alto provides physical firewall products, it’s primarily transitioning its business to handle cloud protection on a subscription basis. That’s good news, because subscription revenue offers better margins than physical firewall products, and it also helps to reduce customer churn. Between organic growth opportunities and a steady dose of bolt-on acquisitions, Palo Alto offers a consistent 15% growth rate.

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Another idea would be to target the identity verification aspect of cybersecurity with Ping Identity. Ping Identity’s enterprise solutions lean on artificial intelligence to become smarter at detecting outside threats over time. Although Ping has been disrupted by COVID-19 instability a bit more than its peers, the number of customers with at least $250,000 in ARR grew by low double digits in the second quarter, and the company continues to expand its identity solution offerings in popular cloud infrastructure settings. 

Marijuana

 (Photo: Getty Images)

The U.S. marijuana industry is also expected to thrive no matter who finds their way into the Oval Office. Even though both candidates have shown little willingness to alter federal cannabis policy – Joe Biden wants to decriminalize pot at the federal level, while Trump would leave the status quo in place – state-level legalizations are providing more than enough growth potential for direct and ancillary players. Remember, two-thirds of all states have already waved the green flag on medical marijuana, with 11 also allowing adult-use consumption and/or retail sale.

One smart way investors can play the U.S. marijuana industry is with vertically integrated multistate operators (MSO). This long jumble of words simply means a company that controls its seed-to-sale process in multiple legalized U.S. states. Since weed is illicit at the federal level, it can’t be transported across state lines. This mean cultivation and processing operations need to be established in many of the states where an MSO sells its products.

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Among MSOs, Green Thumb Industries should generate surprisingly strong growth and push into recurring profitability in 2021. Green Thumb has just shy of 50 operational dispensaries, with licenses to open as many as 96 locations in a dozen states. One thing that really sets this company apart is that roughly two-thirds of its sales are derived from high-margin derivatives, such as edibles, vapes, and beverages. Less reliance on dried flower is what’ll power Green Thumb’s margins higher.

If ancillary pot stocks are more your thing, Innovative Industrial Properties has proved unstoppable. Innovative Industrial Properties is a real estate investment trust that acquires cultivation and processing sites, then leases these assets out for a long period of time (often 10 to 20 years). To date, IIP owns and leases 63 facilities in 16 states, with a weighted-average lease length of 16.2 years. As long as financing remains dicey for cannabis companies in the U.S., Innovative Industrial Properties’ sale-leaseback program will allow the company to prosper. 

Sean Williams has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Datadog, Green Thumb Industries, Innovative Industrial Properties, Palo Alto Networks, and Salesforce.com. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ping Identity Holding. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The Motley Fool is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news, analysis and commentary designed to help people take control of their financial lives. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

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