Since the end of the Great Recession in 2009, growth stocks have thrived. Historically low lending rates, an ongoing quantitative easing program designed to weigh down long-term bond yields, and a free-spending Congress have all helped to make cheap capital widely abundant for businesses. This is helping to fuel acquisitions, hiring, and (most importantly) innovation.
Yet for some companies, their exponential growth is just beginning. For each of the following hypergrowth stocks, Wall Street’s consensus sales estimate for 2023, courtesy of FactSet, implies a revenue increase ranging from a low of 1,185% (yes, a low of 1,185%) to a high of 12,629%, compared to 2020 sales.
Moderna: Implied sales increase of 1,185%
Arguably the best-known name on this list is biotech Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA). According to Wall Street, Moderna’s annual revenue is expected to catapult from the $803.4 million recorded in 2020 to an estimated $10.33 billion in 2023. Interestingly, the $10.33 billion in projected sales for 2023 is about half of the $20.13 billion forecast this year.
As a lot of you probably know, Modena’s success is tied to the development of its coronavirus vaccine mRNA-1273. When the company ran a large-scale study of its COVID-19 vaccine, the results (released in November) demonstrated a vaccine efficacy (VE) of 94% and a strong propensity to keep vaccinated individuals from getting severe forms of the disease. This initial VE made Moderna’s COVID vaccine a slam dunk for Emergency Use Authorization in the United States.
When the company announced its second-quarter operating results on Aug. 5, it stuck to its original forecast of delivering between 800 million and 1 billion doses in 2021, with net product sales of around $20 billion. Next year, Moderna believes it can provide between 2 billion and 3 billion doses. As a reminder, the Moderna vaccine is a two-dose regimen, meaning its 2022 output could fully inoculate 1 billion to 1.5 billion people.
Also working in Modena’s favor is the possibility of booster vaccinations. The mutability of COVID, coupled with a handful of studies suggesting that VE begins waning at the six-month mark, could create a recurring vaccination need globally.
While Moderna might sound like a surefire growth story, there are still big question marks about its future. For example, even though mRNA-1273 has been wildly successful, it’s the only therapy that’s generating sales for the company. Moderna’s non-COVID pipeline looks to be years away from bringing in meaningful revenue.
Equally concerning is the likelihood that the COVID vaccine space is going to become crowded. At some point soon, Novavax should join the field with a formidable initial VE of about 90%. It is also working on a combination COVID/influenza vaccine, which would be a differentiator and game changer.
Not to take anything away from what Moderna has done, but a $150 billion market cap for a company with a single therapy seems awfully risky.
Zogenix: Implied sales increase of 2,451%
Another biotech stock that’s expected to generate jaw-dropping sales growth through 2023 is small-cap Zogenix (NASDAQ:ZGNX). If Wall Street’s consensus estimate proves accurate, the company’s $13.64 million in reported sales in 2020 could grow to $348 million by 2023.
Like Moderna, there’s a single drug that looks to do all of the heavy lifting for Zogenix over the next couple of years: Fintepla. This is a drug targeted at a variety of seizure-related indications. It’s already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat Dravet syndrome. And Zogenix has plans to file a supplemental new drug application by the end of the current quarter to expand Fintepla’s label to include Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS). Both Dravet and LGS are rare forms of childhood-onset epilepsy. If approved, Zogenix could launch Fintepla for LGS patients in this country by as early as the first half of 2022.
And Zogenix still isn’t done with Fintepla. After hashing out the finer points with the FDA, the company intends to initiate a phase 3 study involving Fintepla as a treatment for CDKL5 deficiency disorder before the end of the year. Thus, organic growth and label expansion opportunities are expected to fuel sales of Fintepla to almost $350 million in three years.
What’ll be particularly interesting is how Zogenix fares against cannabinoid-focused drug developer GW Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Jazz Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:JAZZ) in May. GW’s lead drug, Epidiolex, is a cannabidiol-based treatment that’s been approved by the FDA to treat Dravet syndrome and LGS, and it launched in advance of Zogenix’s Fintepla. For comparative purposes, Jazz announced that Epidiolex brought home $155.9 million in sales just in the second quarter, although it has an additional indication under its belt (tuberous sclerosis complex) where it won’t compete against Zogenix.
Although Epidiolex appears to have the upper hand now, it’s worth noting that seizure-reduction efficacy for Fintepla looked very promising in late-stage clinical trials. To be 100% clear, the GW Pharma and Zogenix studies were never pitted head-to-head, and their baseline parameters are different. Nevertheless, Fintepla led to a 62.3% reduction in mean monthly convulsive seizure frequency compared to placebo at the six-week mark for Dravet syndrome patients.
Comparatively, Jazz’s Epidiolex demonstrated reductions in seizure frequency from baseline of 56% and 47%, respectively, for the lower- and higher-dose treatments in phase 3 studies in Dravet syndrome patients. Suffice it to say, these could be highly competitive indications for the foreseeable future.
Marathon Digital Holdings: Implied sales increase of 12,629%
Now, if you want pedal-to-the-metal growth, look no further than Marathon Digital Holdings (NASDAQ:MARA). After reporting a meager $4.36 million in sales in 2020, Wall Street anticipates full-year sales will climb to $555 million by 2023. That’s an increase of 12,629%.
If you’re wondering how sales growth of this magnitude is possible for a company not involved in drug development, look no further than cryptocurrencies.
Marathon Digital is a cryptocurrency mining company. It operates a farm of high-powered computing devices designed to solve complex mathematical equations that validate groups of transactions (known as a block) as valid on a digital currency’s blockchain. For being the first to validate a block, Marathon is paid a block reward. This reward is typically a set amount of digital tokens from the digital currency being mined.
In Marathon’s case, it’s mining Bitcoin (CRYPTO:BTC), the largest cryptocurrency in the world by market cap. Being the first to mine a Bitcoin block results in the company being awarded 6.25 Bitcoin tokens, which were worth a cool $292,000, as of Aug. 30.
The reason Marathon’s sales are skyrocketing so quickly is because it’s in the midst of deploying one of the largest Bitcoin-mining operations in the United States. As of the beginning of August, approximately 30,100 miners were operating, with another 103,000 ordered and yet to be installed. By the end of the first quarter of 2022, Marathon should have north of 100,000 miners in operation, with all 133,120 up and running by July 2022.
Though Marathon is the fastest-growing of these three hypergrowth stocks, it’s also arguably the most dangerous investment of this trio. That’s because it’s entirely dependent on external factors, such as interest in, and the price of, Bitcoin — and not innovation.
What’s more, the barrier to entry in the cryptocurrency mining space is virtually nonexistent. As time passes, it’s going to be tougher for Marathon to successfully mine Bitcoin.
As the icing on the cake, Bitcoin’s block rewards halve every four years. By 2024, only 3.125 Bitcoin tokens will be paid for validating a block. Essentially, Marathon is competing against a growing number of mining companies for a reward that’s shrinking. It simply doesn’t sound like an operating model with long-term staying power.
This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.