Benjamin Graham defined a growth share as a share in a company “that has done better than average in the past, and is expected to do so in the future.”
The basic attraction of growth shares is as such: if you invest in a rapidly growing company, its earnings will increase, thereby increasing the values of your shares and the amount you receive in dividends.
The Problems With Trying To Predict The Growth Shares Of The Future.
We all know about the incredible growth stories behind some of the worlds biggest companies- if only we had bought a few shares in google or dell and we would be millionaires. The success of past growth stocks is still a significant pull to investors, luring them into hopelessly trying to predict the stocks and areas of the future.
Of course the principle of trying to invest in companies with good futures sounds very logical, yet it is actually very difficult- and if you get it wrong you might lose big time.
To illustrate the difficulties of picking the growth areas of the future, let us take the current energy debate. A “smart” guy might think there’s money to be made- now lets look at his options:
This simplistic diagram does at least indicate how difficult it would be to even pick a growth sector of the future. More bad news for the speculator- picking the right company is even harder. In terms of our energy example, there might be hundreds of companies in each sector- very tough to pick the eventual winner. Remember that Microsoft was essentially a garage based operation up against the mighty IBM and hundreds of other competitors. Unless you are prepared to lose all of your money, guessing which stocks will make it is not advisable. It is not investment, it is speculation.
Another problem of buying stocks with a good track record of growth is that they are very often expensive- after all if they are growing quickly, there are a lot of people willing to buy them. This presents another risk for the investor- He may pick shares in a fantastic company that grows its business at a fantastic over the next five years, but still not make much money.
Company XYZ has a fantastic growth rate, priced at $3 per share, but has an EPS (Earnings per Share) of only 11p, giving it a P/E ratio of 27. This high P/E ratio is largely due to this companies past growth record, and its positive outlook for the future. Lets imagine XYZ’s earnings grow at 12% per year for the next five years- a fantastic growth rate. Now EPS would be about 19.4 pence per share. If the market still valued the share at 27 times earnings then your shares might be worth $5.23- not bad at all.
However it is probably very unlikely the market will value it at 27 times earnings, as the high multipier was largely due to the expected period of long growth. Lets say that after this period the company is finding expansion harder (As companies get larger high growth rates are far more difficult to obtain), and therefore the market values it at 17 times earnings- still a fairly high ratio, then your shares might be worth $3.30- a ten percent return over five years would seen pathetic considering you had invested in company that had performed brilliantly.