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3 FTSE 250 growth stocks I’d buy right now

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Where should we look for growth right now? In my view the opportunity lies in finding individual companies that are performing well, rather than targeting whole sectors.

The three shares I’ve selected for this piece are all members of the FTSE 250, which has risen by 30% over the last five years. That’s a respectable performance, but my stocks have all beaten this market since 2015.

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A gaming winner?

As a general rule, I think online gambling stocks are a better bet than high street bookmakers. But one company with land-based operations that I rate highly is Rank Group (LSE: RNK), which owns Grosvenor Casinos and Mecca Bingo.

This week’s half-year results revealed that net gaming revenue from these venues rose by 10% to £312.3m during the second half of 2019. Although the company does have some online operations, these are still playing catch-up – revenue rose by 14% to £65.2m during the same period.

The good news for shareholders is that operating profit rose by 70% to £55.1m, on an underlying basis. This is down to an effect known as ‘operational leverage’. In short, if sales rise when costs are mostly fixed, then profits will rise much more quickly than sales.

Rank shares have risen by 77% since the end of August, but rising profits mean they still look reasonably priced to me, on 12 times 2020–21 forecast earnings. I remain a buyer.

An emerging market opportunity

Chief executive Mark Coombs owns 37% of emerging market asset manager Ashmore Group (LSE: ASHM). His leadership of the company he founded is one reason why I’m a big fan of this stock.

The other reason I like Ashmore is that Coombs’ track record suggest he and his team have a good grasp of the investment opportunities available in emerging market debt.

This specialist area isn’t the kind of investment where you can easily dabble with small amounts. You need a big stack of cash and a lot of specialist knowledge to be in with a chance of making money.

Ashmore ticks both of these boxes. Assets under management rose by 24% to $91.8bn last year, during which the company generated a return on equity of more than 20%.

The shares look fully priced on 18 times forecast earnings. But there’s a 3.3% dividend yield and I think this business has the potential to keep growing. I’d be happy to buy Ashmore for a long-term portfolio.

This double bagger could keep going

Catering firm SSP Group (LSE: SSPG) operates branded food outlets in travel locations, such as airports and railway stations. Some of these are operated on behalf of firms like Burger King, Jamie Oliver, and Starbucks. Others belong to SSP, such as Upper Crust and Ritazza.

SSP’s operations span 2,800 units in 35 countries. The company has been in business for 50 years but only floated on the London market in 2014. The shares have risen by 165% since then, but in my view the business still only looks slightly expensive.

As far as I can see, this is an excellent business operationally, providing good service in many locations. The main risk I can see is that a global recession could cause sales to slow in a number of major markets. So far there’s no sign of this.

The stock is pricey on 21 times forecast earnings, but I believe long-term growth prospects remain strong and I would remain a buyer.

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Roland Head owns shares of Ashmore Group. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of SSP Group. 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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