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3 Growth Stocks That Could Rally in the Second Half of 2022

The first half of 2022 is in the books, and for the stock market, it wasn’t a pleasant one. Both the broad S&P 500 index and the technology-centric Nasdaq 100 index were down over 20% for the period, placing them in bear market territory. For many individual tech stocks, the results were much worse.

But that could spell opportunity going forward as there are some early signs that high inflation is beginning to taper off, which could result in less aggressive interest rate increases. Three Motley Fool contributors think Bill.com (BILL 3.84%), airbnb (ABNB 3.09%)and okta (OKTA 0.29%) could make a comeback in the second half of 2022 after shedding quite a bit of value in the earlier part of the year.

A small business barometer

Anthony DiPizio (Bill.com): Small businesses are on the front line of the economy. They’re often the first to feel the pinch when conditions tighten and the first to benefit when consumption picks up again. That’s why owning stock in Bill.com is a great way to ride a potential economic rebound.

Bill.com is a provider of software tools that help small to mid-sized enterprises manage accounts payable and accounts receivable flows. It earns the bulk of its revenue from transaction fees when business-to-business payments are made through its platform. Therefore, when the economy is strong, more transaction volume occurs, which increases its income.

Bill.com’s flagship tool is a cloud-based digital inbox that allows businesses to aggregate all incoming invoices and pay them with a single click, and then logs them in the books automatically. It went on an acquisition spree in 2021, bolting on two companies that have allowed for an expansion into new verticals. The company bought Invoice2go, which businesses can use to create invoices and manage incoming payments, and it bought Divvy, an expense tracking and budgeting platform. Bill.com now serves a combined 386,100 customers.

When the company reports earnings for fiscal 2022, which ended on June 30, it could reveal revenue as high as $625 million based on previous guidance. That would represent eye-popping growth of 162% compared to its 2021 result. But Bill.com might just be getting warmed up, because it cites a global opportunity of $125 trillion in payment volume from over 70 million business customers. With its stock down 64% from its all-time high, now might be a great time to get involved, especially if inflation begins to roll over.

One stock to crush it in 2022 and beyond

Jamie Louko (Airbnb): Airbnb is coming off a hot first quarter where revenue soared 70% year over year to $1.5 billion, yet the upcoming summer season could be even more lucrative. The US Travel Association reported that Americans spent $101 billion on travel in May 2022 — a new pandemic record. Additionally, gas prices are becoming less of a concern for traveling Americans: 41% say that rising gas prices would impact their decision to travel in the next six months. This was down substantially from 59% the month prior. Considering Airbnb had an all-time quarterly record of 102 million nights and experiences booked in Q1, the company is likely benefiting from this strong demand.

This travel demand has already yielded lots of cash flow for Airbnb. In Q1, the company generated $1.2 billion in free cash flow, which it could use to capitalize on the long-term opportunity.

Over the long term, Airbnb’s brand and customer satisfaction could allow it to flourish. Airbnb has a reputation for offering stays in everything from treehouses to castles. Importantly, it has this uniqueness at scale with more than 6 million active listings. Airbnb’s customer satisfaction scores are also far higher than its rivals. The company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) is 31, which supersedes competitors like Vrbo and Booking Holdings (BKNG 2.00%)both of which have an NPS of -83 and 25, respectively.

The company’s impressive cash generation could fuel further growth in these two areas: product differentiation and high customer satisfaction. This would help the company succeed over the coming years, making Airbnb a go-to site when booking a vacation.

Shares are cheap at 21.5 times free cash flow, making this investment very appealing right now. With the short term and the long term both looking bright for Airbnb, investors might want to buy this stock and hold it for the long haul.

A leader in identity and access management

Trevor Jennewine (Okta): Cybersecurity vendor Okta specializes in identity and access management (IAM), a framework that ensures only the right people can access sensitive data and applications. The Okta Identity Cloud allows enterprises to enforce access policies based on device, location, time of day, and other context. Better yet, it leans on artificial intelligence to score the risk associated with each login attempt, and the platform can more thoroughly authenticate users in a high-risk scenario, eg, when a user behaves in an uncharacteristic manner.

Okta has distinguished itself in two broad ways. First, its IAM platform integrates with over 7,000 application and infrastructure vendors — far more than rivals like Ping Identity. Those integrations accelerate time to value for customers. Of course, prebuilt integrations don’t cover every scenario, so Okta acquired Auth0 last year. That move made its developer suite more robust, making it easy for customers to add identity protection to custom applications.

Second, Okta is technology neutral, meaning the company wouldn’t benefit by showing bias toward any particular software or cloud vendor. In fact, Okta is incentivized to integrate with as many different technologies as possible. The same cannot be said for microsoft. As a cloud-services provider, Microsoft has reason to steer users toward its own infrastructure.

Collectively, Okta’s strong product and solid competitive position have translated into respectable financial results. Over the past year, revenue hit $1.5 billion, up 62% from the previous year. On the bottom line, Okta’s generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) loss widened to $6.39 per diluted share, due in large part to expenses associated with the Auth0 acquisition. But the company still generated positive free cash flow of $45 million, and the addition of Auth0’s developer tools should be a valuable asset in the long run.

Looking ahead, management puts its market opportunity at $80 billion, leaving Okta with plenty of room to grow its business. On that note, the stock has fallen 67% from its high, and shares currently trade at a reasonable 10.4 times sales — much cheaper than the three-year average of 29.9 times sales. Given the essential nature of cybersecurity (enterprises must protect their sensitive applications and data regardless of macroeconomic variables like high inflation), this growth stock is well positioned to rebound.

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