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One growth stock I’d buy today and one I’d sell

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One of last year’s hot growth stocks was big data software firm WANdisco (LSE: WAND). This AIM-listed stock has delivered a 195% gain for shareholders since the start of 2017.

However, shares in the firm fell by 7% this morning, despite WANdisco revealing that its total bookings — the value of contracts received during the period — rose by 45% to $22.5m in 2017.

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Even the news that bookings for the group’s Fusion product climbed 121% to $15.7m wasn’t enough to excite investors.

It’s clear that Fusion is the firm’s big growth hope for the future. Indeed, today’s figures suggest to me that bookings for the group’s other main product, Source Code Management (SCM), fell from $8.4m to $6.8m last year.

Why I’m worried

Unfortunately today’s trading update didn’t provide any update on expected revenue for 2017. Many of the firm’s contracts stretch over more than one year, so I expect revenue to be lower than the $22.5m reported as new bookings.

Consensus forecasts are for revenue of $17m in 2017. Today’s share price fall suggests to me that the company is not expected to have exceeded this figure.

After such a strong run last year, my view is that WANdisco looks a little too expensive for a lossmaking company, especially one that recently raised $22m by selling new shares. Another year of losses is forecast for 2018. On this basis, the stock’s price/sales multiple of 31 seems dangerously high to me. I would sell after last year’s strong run.

One stock I would buy

Investors seem to have given up all hope of earnings growth at spread betting and CFD firm CMC Markets (LSE: CMCX).

The main reason for this is that the market has no way of predicting how hard the company’s profits will be hit by the FCA’s planned leverage limits for retail clients.

Markets hate uncertainty and often discount shares heavily in such situations. This can create good buying opportunities.

A contrarian buy?

CMC shares have halved since hitting a high of 290p in July 2016. This decline has left the stock trading on a 2017/18 forecast P/E of 10.9, rising to a P/E of 12.6 for 2018/19.

This shares’ rising P/E ratio reflects an expected 14% fall in earnings this year. Clearly this isn’t good news. But CMC has a strong balance sheet with plenty of surplus cash. And the group’s current operating margin of 30% suggests to me that it could still operate profitably with lower margins.

One risk is that CMC is smaller than sector leader IG Group. Regulatory costs generally affect smaller companies more heavily, due to the higher cost per client. However, I think CMC should be big enough to manage.

What does the future hold?

CMC is focusing on higher-value retail clients and is diversifying into providing electronic trading facilities for institutional clients. Although this business isn’t quite so profitable, it should help support volumes if the number of retail clients falls.

The shares currently trade on a 2018/19 forecast P/E of 12.6, with a well-covered 5% dividend yield. I believe this stock could be worth buying for growth and income at current levels.

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Roland Head has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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