Motley Fool’s “Our $1 Million Bet for 2018”

What's being touted as the Fool's biggest bet for Stock Advisor subscribers?

It always sounds impressive when someone says they’ve got a “million dollar bet” on the line, right? That’s the attention-getter from the Motley Fool that I started seeing this morning, with a promise that they’ll reveal to you their biggest single holding… as soon as you sign up for Stock Advisor ($49/year) to get the “free report.”

So, naturally, we want to see what the story is without coughing up the dough — what are they talking about?

The ad is signed by Eric Bleeker, one of the Fool analysts, and it basically says that this is the most impressive stock pick they’ve ever made, they’ve re-recommended it 16 times in various newsletters, and they still think it’s worthy of being the “biggest bet for 2018” as it closes in on becoming a trillion dollar company.

Which means you might well already know what the name of the stock is… but wait for the rest of the class to catch up, please. What are the clues dropped in the ad?

“We have $1,217,212.94 invested in ONE stock… our single biggest bet!

“Some of our members have already banked huge profits thanks to our recommendations of this stock….

“‘We believe XXXX will soemday exceed $1 trillion-dollar in annual revenues.’ — March 2018 Motley Fool Analysis of XXXX”

So what is that “XXXX?” A few more clues:

“In late December of 2017, one of the Motley Fool’s real money portfolio stock holdings topped one million dollars.

“It was (and still is!) our biggest single holding, ever….

“It has been recommended 16 times across 10 different Motley Fool services….

“when he recommended in back in 2002, David Gardner boldly asserted that ‘is a keeper stock for the long term’ ….

“Then in mid-2010, David Gardner made a seemingly “preposterous” prediction: “XXXX, currently valued at $79 billion, will eventually surpass Wal-Mart’s $199 billion market cap.”

“Sure enough, in mid-2015, it soared past a $199 billion market cap…and hasn’t dropped below that since.”

OK, so this one isn’t much of a workout for the Mighty, Mighty Thinkolator… this is, of course, good old Amazon.com (AMZN). Which isn’t a bad bet for hitting that “trillion dollar market cap” level first, given that it’s already toyed with $800 billion in the past few weeks… though a trillion dollars in annual sales would be a whole different matter, that would be a quintupling of the current sales volume. It might get there, sales are still growing fast (and accelerating — 40% last year, the highest sales growth number in five years), but it will at least take a long time.

Amazon is one of the all-time great stock picks from David Gardner, king of the growth side of the room at the Motley Fool Stock Advisor, and one of the huge winners that makes up the foundation for his market-beating returns over the years (his strength is an ability to pick stocks that are “too expensive” but changing the world, and, more importantly, hold on tight through sometimes disastrous periods to get those 5,000-10,000%+ returns from names like Amazon, Marvel (then Disney), Netflix, Priceline, etc…. though there are always plenty of grumpy subscribers along the way if they happened to only invest in the less successful picks that get squashed in the averages by the huge winners).

I’ve been an admirer of Amazon for years, but could never convince myself to buy shares just because it has always been so absurdly expensive if you thought of it, as I did, primarily as a retailer… until early in 2017, when I finally decided that the underlying growth in their high-margin web services business, the huge and almost universal appeal of Amazon Prime, and their “winner take all” status in ecommerce, where they had 30%+ market share in the US and seem to have an easy ride to 50% or more at this point, were worth a small nibble as I waited for bad news to hit and bring the stock down to a more appealing price.

So what happens after that? The stock refuses to dip, and my investment doubles in a year, and it’s still absurdly expensive. And still a great company.

If you look at the financials, you will soon tear your hair out trying to justify an investment in Amazon….

They have only recently started to grow their earnings meaningfully, with their best quarter ever to start 2018, but even now the stock trades at a trailing PE of 200…. roughly the lowest PE it’s had since 2012 (and yes, I screwed up by thinking it was too expensive at 40X earnings in 2005).

The profit margins have improved since the worst of the dips in 2014 or so, when they were spending so much on expansion that they actually lost money for every dollar of sales, but they’re still pretty tight at 3% even with the higher-margin Amazon Web Services business becoming a meaningful contributor (Wal-Mart has profit margins of about 1.75%, grocery stores are often at 1% or below). Gross margins have finally returned to where they were in the mid-2000s, in the mid-20% range, but we’ll have to wait to see if they get past that long-time ceiling.

And even if you go out into the future, using analyst forecasts, the valuation will make you a little queasy — Amazon today is trading at about 50X 2020 earnings… and Analysts are almost always far too optimistic about Amazon’s far-in-the-future earnings, in recent years those estimates have had to come down dramatically as they got closer to reality and the clarity of Jeff Bezos “spend what you have to to own the world” philosophy is again reiterated, spending more and more money to build the business and make a better customer experience, with little to no priority placed on profitability.

So that’s the problem — Amazon is a company that lives in its own universe, and pays no fealty to analyst expectations or PE ratios… they are trying to dominate retail and cloud services around the world, one country and one business and one Prime subscription at a time, and as long as they think they can grow they’re going to keep growing the revenue line and the customer count even if that comes at the expense of profitability.

But that’s also the amazing thing about owning Amazon shares: No one else can do this, so no one can compete. Analysts keep saying that Amazon can turn the knob whenever they feel like it, and turn this fantastic business into a profit machine, and maybe that’s true — but they don’t have to, and doing so would probably get rid of their one competitive advantage if they do it too soon, before they’ve become a global monopoly.

There’s risk, to be sure, but I guess I’m coming around the the sentiment that “valuation doesn’t matter” — until it does. There will probably come a day that some real chinks appear in Amazon’s armor again, as they have from time to time, whether it’s because of Wal-Mart finally spending more money to take share, or because of antitrust investigations into Amazon’s market dominance, or because Google or Microsoft takes meaningful profit share in cloud services… but it doesn’t look like the speed bump that trips them up will be “the stock is too expensive.” People, including me, have been saying that for more than a decade, and so far it has just made us look silly. I probably said similarly cautious things about Amazon teasers from the Motley Fool in 2011 and 2013, as I see they popped up on our teaser tracking, and the stock has risen by 800% and 500% since those pitches were made, respectively.

It remains absurd, on the face of it, that Amazon’s total profit during the past 20 years is just about half of what Apple made in profit in the first quarter of 2018… but as long as you focus on profit instead of revenue growth, market share, international expansion and the hugely sticky and persistent growth in Prime memberships, you’re going to miss the Amazon story.

It might be worth missing at this point, of course, you don’t have to swing at every pitch, and not having much profit means there’s not an easy “floor” for the stock if sentiment shifts. The math starts to get crazy, too, because even getting to be a billion dollar company would “only” mean a 25% increase in the stock price from here (obviously attainable, since the stock has soared 100% in about a year), but only you can make that call (Apple at $900+ billion could easily make it to a trillion first, though I’d guess that their stock buybacks will shrink the market cap and slow them down before that happens).

There’s only one Amazon, so leave your comparisons at the door and think about whether you want to bet on a belief in Jeff Bezos’ vision. Personally, I’ve “let it ride” with my holdings, mostly because it’s an incredible company and I’d never want to try to bet against them… but I do have a stop loss trigger in place for my Amazon shares in case we see a huge shift in sentiment, as is possible if hard to imagine at this point, so I’ll wait until that hits to think about it some more. (And no, I don’t think President Trump’s hissy fit about Amazon’s USPS deal, presumably fueled by his ire at Bezos’ Washington Post, is going to get us a “buyable dip” — more likely it will further bankrupt the Post Office).

Your mileage may vary, of course, and it’s your dime so it’s your call — would you buy Amazon here? Do you own it? Tempted to hold, buy more, sell? Think Jeff Bezos will be able to remain the titan of global commerce, or see regulatory pressure coming? Let us know with a comment below.

Disclosure: I own shares of Amazon, Disney and Apple among the stocks mentioned above. I will not trade in any covered stock for at least three days, per Stock Gumshoe’s trading rules.


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53 Comments on "Motley Fool’s “Our $1 Million Bet for 2018”"

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Steve
Guest
0

Until Walmart invades the space. They have better prices, better delivery options and have a stickiness worldwide that goes way beyond just selling on the internet. I used to use Ebay and Amazon, but every time I compare prices, Walmart is much less. Plus, if I can pick it up at the local store while there anyway, I can. LOL

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big tuna
Member
52

WalMart continually tries and fails to invade the space. They tried on their own and didn’t make it and then bought Jet and didn’t make it. Now they are putting in dedicated internet pick up entrances- just like Lowe’s. WalMart simply cant get past what people think of when they say WalMart, they have image issue. It is cool to buy from AMZ but when you buy from WalMart you get lumped in with wearing pajama bottoms during the day out in public

bluechipholder
Guest
0

That is so true @Big Tuna and I wish it was not because I see so much more value in using Walmart online now for most purchases. Still there is alot of electronic and computer stuff you can get on Amazon but not Wmart. I have owned both for years (My grandfather gave me some Walmart stock back in the early 80s. I don’t think either company is going anywhere but up….for now.

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BillV
Guest
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I would agree, to some extent. But, then, you have to careful with how cheaply some Walmart goods are made. Read The Walmart Effect. Cheaply made Levi’s, thin gauge metal on lawnmowers, etc.

brian
Guest
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Sorry if this sounds like a humblebrag: I was lucky to get into AMZN early and now it’s more than half of my portfolio. I know I should be more diversified, but is that compelling enough reason to sell some?

tom
Guest
0

I know a friend who ended up with $2.6 million in 1 stock. It was 90% of his holdings. He sold that stock at a price that yielded him $200k. DIVERSIFY while you can.

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JCCHARTERIS
Guest
0

I did a stupid thing and put about 20% of my stock in that Midas mine in Idaho. A week later, it’s down more than 10%. I hate to pull out with such a loss, but I’m afraid it will drop even more, even though I still think that EVENTUALLY it could be a good stock. Would you suggest selling half, or all?

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Lori
Guest
0

If you liked it before why not buy more at a 10 % discount or see if it drops another 10% and buy more?
patience…it’s a commodity market you are investing in…..play it. No FEAR.

Kit
Guest
0

Yes. Rebalance.

Edward K. Motley
Guest
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My only deterrent from owning shares of the largest companies is that I am heavily exposed to them in index funds. I almost bought Apple shares when they announced a stock split many years ago, except the amount I was ready to buy was less than how much I owned through my index funds, so I accepted that my investment goals for my brokerage account were a bit different than the rest of my investment portfolio. If I did not have index funds or ETFs though, then I would definitely buy into Amazon this year (or hopefully, last year or… Read more »
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glbcpa1
Member
43

I recall late in 1990s early 2000s’, pundits saying Microsoft was headed to $1,000, KO would be $400 and on. and on. Murph’s law and logistics will interact, and humpty dumpt will take a fall. The rockets red glare and …………

Chuck Petersen
Guest
0
I was somewhat actually excited about the teaser until I started reading further and learned that they have already owned Amazon for quite some time now. Lets be honest here they are nothing more than “Newsletter Peddlers”. When you get 2 NEW STOCK PICKS EVERY MONTH that should tell you all you need to know. I have been a serious student of the market for over 45+ YEARS and there is no way I can find 2 new picks to buy every month. I have acquired a very lengthy criteria over the years that a stock has to meet or… Read more »
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tom
Guest
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They have an entire staff vetting potential picks. I have used their service for 10 years, was a Series 7 guy in the Carter adm. Very well worth the money

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Rick
Guest
0

Would you share your criteria with us?

Britt
Guest
0

Sometimes some of their “new” picks are ones they had already touted previously and are re-touting. Rule Breakers advised buying Hubspot this month, which they had already given back in August. They also list five Best Buys each month and Hubspot was included in March’s five.

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precisionvision
Irregular
58

I agree with guests Tom & Britt. Motley Fool Rule Breakers is well worth the money and the new picks are often recycled if the pick seems to have running room. A friend has Stock Advisor and from what I have heard, that service is also well worth it. These services offer ideas for long term buy and hold. These two services in particular are very often right and when they’re right, the ROI is substantial.

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Lori
Guest
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There are no good stocks or bad stocks. The only thing that counts? Did you buy at a discount or did you pay too much? If I like a company? I’ll place a limit order for 10 to 15% below fair value @GTC and hope for a dip. It’s the price you pay..too easy. Be a good shopper, take a rain check and come back in a couple weeks. LOL

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pkoop
Irregular
8

In my view, Amazon lives in a universe inhabited by a few other 21st century stocks. These are companies whose underlying core capability is technology including cloud, AI , machine learning, robotics, blockchain, etc.
The growing synergy of these Technologies -,combined- creates a mote that is unassailable.
FAAMNG+ on steroids.
Warren Buffett, when asked why he didn’t Buy Apple years ago replied, “Because I was stupid.”
The investing carpet has shifted for companies like these, where there is seemingly no limit to their growth (versus the Value investing of Graham and Buffett).

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dcsipp
Irregular
5

Travis,
You often talk about folks liking to buy single digit stocks so they can buy lots of shares. I don’t subscribe to this but gulped at $900 per share. But I did buy in. Happy camper! So far at least.

jazzman777
Guest
0

why bother with a stock that I can’t even buy 1 share for my P? Prob. a good long term if you about 100,000 to trade with!!!

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Lori
Guest
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See my comment on AHT BELOW. Great little investment. They have a DRIP PLAN, too. No more excuses. You can do it. Do a You tube search about a man that worked as a parking attendsnt. He got rich investing in stocks…… slowly. He never made more than $11 an hour his entire life. SO, Spend less than you earn and invest the rest only in things that go UP. No NIKE/generic tennis shoes $12!!! By the way, AHT held their own during the 2007-08 market meltdown. Luxury upscale hotels from New York to Key West to the west coast… Read more »
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jazzman777
Guest
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I have a list of so many good stocks to buy under $60 that I can’t begin to get them all.

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Lori
Guest
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Me too. Buy a hotel REIT, like AHT but ONLY under $6. They pays good dividends too….7.5%. I buy dirt cheap and hold this one. It rolls up down up down etc… $5.70 to $7.50+……. I was up 44% in 4 weeks. Even at $7 it’s still undervalued. But why over pay? Why?

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bunion132
Irregular
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For a stock like AMZN (or any pricey stock in the $1000+ range, for that matter), I request your assistance in establishing a REASONABLE tolerance level for dips before placing a Stop Order. I’ve been in and out of this stock over the past year, getting spooked every time it dropped in price to around 6-7% total, generally over a 3-day period. So spooked that I tend to cash in –gain or loss – because the drop in a pricey stock such as this makes a considerable dent in my portfolio even if I only have a small position. But,… Read more »
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money tree
Irregular
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That’s a good question, and personal since it reflects your own investing style and risk tolerance. Like Travis said, those motley fool guys philosophy is “buy good companies and hold forever” (unless no longer a good company or market sector). I think at one point they were down 33% or more on Amazon ! (way-back when!) There is no right answer. I wonder what Travis might say. often folks say 30% drop from all-time high= good time to get out, but then sometimes the stock will come roaring back. Buy and hold investors almost always (over 90% of the time)… Read more »
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quincy adams
Guest
0

For us po’ folks, one way to own a chunk of the near-trillion dollar companies is through the Nuveen Nasdaq fund QQQX, selling for about $26-27 today. Their top 5 holdings at present are AAPL, AMZN, MSFT, GOOGL and FB, which make up about 50% of their portfolio. Unfortunately, the share price is about 14% above NAV, well above its historical premium, so it may not perform as well as the underlying stocks from here. But these stocks are sizzling, so it may be worth a buy anyway.

Peter
Guest
0

I hardly ever order anything from AMZN, and the last time I did , my credit card was fraudulently charged repeatedly (4 times at least) some prime membership … have never understood how people can buy clothes, or shoes without trying them on, and I never will …

condolawyer
Irregular
1

OK, so Payless will always have stores. Most retailers are not stocking inventory going forward and will have some “try-on” stuff and a latte bar and will fulfill through the Net. AMZN with everything from its own batteries and other consumables will kill a lot more malls

Kit
Guest
0

Same thing happened to me. One purchase and credit card mishap! Charges in Texas and Illinois. I was in neither!!!

Howdy Doodat?
Guest
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Thats where stitchfix (SFIX) comes in.

yukonjack
Guest
0

Best idea for 2018…which is already nearly 5 months past. Why would I listen to these fools? A stock I follow, CVSI, spiked to a low of 16 cents last November and is now about 750% higher. Not pushing the stock, but it is an example of how doing your own homework, for free, can pay off as well as any high priced reco from the “pros and experts” who are usually selling over-priced subscriptions to make up for their trading losses.

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Kit
Guest
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In my experience penny stocks are worth. Just that! Buy an indexed fund an you will be 10 times richer! I learned is the hard way!

Britt
Guest
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I’ve been investing (if you can call it that) since the mid 80’s and I think the things I learned back then hurt me in these days. Used to be the PE was the thing to watch, but now most of the best stocks have huge PE’s. Used to be when a stock got high in price, a stock split would happen and you could pick up a reasonable amount of shares afterwards (Berkshire Hathaway being about the only exception). Now you have stocks in the high hundreds and over a thousand. Like a previous poster, I can’t see the… Read more »
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vipulsea
Irregular
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So Far I have been mindful of Amazon’s valuation, but I really do not believe that Walmart with their recent JD investment is going to impact Amazon’s continuing rising valuation – Amazon has a plethora of initiatives that could be major blockbusters in the future – they have recently been investing heavily in AI like all other companies, but I understand that they are gearing specifically up for gaming – right now its TakeTwo and Activision – but these companies while making serious cash right now, are not really innovators and the gaming industry is ripe for a major change… Read more »
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Blind Guide
Guest
0

VERY interesting conversation…even more than usual IMO…I am grateful for ALL your contributions and especially for yours, Travis, as well as for providing the forum. Thank You!
I would very much like to become a supportive member, an IRREGULAR, but have found no way to do so using the funds from my IRA which would be the direct beneficiary of such membership.
Is there anyone out there who knows how I can do that?

Kit
Guest
0

I really like academy’s internet service. Great products at a great price and free shipping on over $25 orders!

moyamtb
Member
0

Ebay has a tough time right now

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