10 Large-Caps With Fastest Sales Growth

Freeport, Salesforce.com and Southwestern Energy are among companies that can insulate investors from slowing economic growth.
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BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Investors concerned about a double-dip can shield themselves with large-cap companies that have global reach and ample cash to withstand a slowdown.

The following 10 companies increased sales at an annualized rate of at least 34% in the past three years, which were marked by the worst business contraction since the Great Depression. They are ordered by growth rate, from fast to fastest.

10.

Freeport-McMoRan

(FCX) - Get Report

explores for copper and gold. Since 2007, it has expanded sales 34% a year. First-quarter revenue soared 68% and net profit multiplied to $945 million, or $2 a share, from $103 million, or 11 cents, a year earlier. The operating margin extended to 47% from 27%. Freeport's stock has risen 35% during the past 12 months, outpacing indices. It trades at a PEG ratio, a measure of value relative to predicted long-run growth, of 0.2, signaling an 80% discount to estimated fair value.

9.

Salesforce.com

(CRM) - Get Report

designs software to help companies manage customer and sales relationships. During the past three years, it has grown revenue 35% annually, on average. Fiscal first-quarter net income declined 3.8%, to $18 million, or 13 cents a share, as revenue gained 24%. The operating margin narrowed to 8.8% from 9.9%. The company completed its acquisition of

Jigsaw Data

on May 10. Salesforce trades at a premium to software peers based on all valuation measures. Still, analysts are bullish on the stock, with 65% rating it "buy."

8.

CenturyLink

(CTL) - Get Report

, formerly

CenturyTel

, is an integrated telecom company focused on rural areas and midsized cities. The company was created through the merger of CenturyTel and

Embarq

last year. In April, management announced a stock-for-stock merger with

Qwest

(Q)

. Assuming deal approval, the new entity will be the third-largest U.S. telecom company. CenturyLink has grown sales 36% a year since 2007, inorganically. Its stock sells for a forward earnings multiple of 11, a 24% discount to its peer average, and pays a dividend yield of 8.3%.

7.

Republic Services

(RSG) - Get Report

collects and disposes of waste. It merged with

Allied Waste

in 2008. During the past three years, Republic has boosted revenue 38% annually, on average, helped by the merger. Republic is scheduled to release second-quarter results July 28. First-quarter profit tumbled 42%, to $65 million, or 17 cents a share, as revenue declined 5%. The operating margin remained steady at 20%. Republic shares sell for a PEG ratio of 0.9, a 10% discount to fair value. Researchers are bullish on the stock, with 91% rating it "buy."

6.

IntercontinentalExchange

(ICE) - Get Report

operates futures exchanges, over-the-counter markets and derivatives clearing houses. Since 2007, it has grown sales 39% a year. First-quarter profit advanced 40%, to $101 million, or $1.36 a share, as revenue jumped 22%. Its stock trades at a price-to-projected-earnings ratio of 17, a 14% premium to the financial services industry average. Roughly 55% of analysts covering the stock rank it a "buy."

UBS

(UBS) - Get Report

offers a target of $143 and

Stifel Financial

(SF) - Get Report

values the stock at $140, both implying a return of more than 30%.

5.

Southwestern Energy

(SWN) - Get Report

is an independent energy company, exploring for natural gas and crude oil in the U.S. During the past three years, it has expanded revenue 40% annually, on average. Its stock returned 20% a year over that span. Southwestern swung to a first-quarter profit of $172 million, or 49 cents a share, from a loss of $433 million, or $1.26, a year earlier. Revenue rose 24%. The shares trade at a premium to oil and gas peers based on projected earnings, book value and cash flow. They offer a superior performance record.

4.

Celgene

(CELG) - Get Report

develops therapies for cancer and immune-inflammatory diseases. Since 2007, it has boosted sales 42% a year. But its stock declined 5% a year over the same period. Celgene is due to release second-quarter results July 28. First-quarter profit gained 44%, to $234 million, or 50 cents a share, as revenue increased 31%. The operating margin extended to 35% from 27%. Celgene trades at a PEG ratio of 0.5, a 50% discount to fair value. Of analysts covering the stock, 96% rate it "buy." A median target of $71.80 reflects an expected return of 37%.

3.

Life Technologies

(LIFE) - Get Report

, like Celgene, is a top biotech company. However, Life Technologies designs and sells the tools researchers use for drug discovery. During the past three years, the company has grown revenue 42% annually, on average. Its stock returned 6.9% a year over that span. Life is expected to report its second-quarter performance July 29. First-quarter profit sextupled to $92 million, or 48 cents a share, as revenue climbed 14%. The stock sells for a PEG ratio of 0.1, a 90% discount to fair value. Roughly 88% of researchers covering the stock rank it "buy."

2.

Intuitive Surgical

(ISRG) - Get Report

sells the da Vinci systems, which are used for complex surgeries. Since 2007, it has expanded sales 43% a year. Its stock advanced 29% a year over the same time frame, beating indices. Intuitive will release second-quarter results July 21. First-quarter profit tripled to $85 million, or $2.12 a share, as revenue surged 74%. The operating margin stretched to 39% from 24%. Its stock trades at a PEG ratio of 1, at parity with fair value. Just 33% of analysts rate it "buy." Last quarter, Intuitive beat analysts' profit consensus by 24%.

1.

Discovery Communications

(DISCA) - Get Report

provides television programming worldwide, most notably on the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. During the past three years, it has grown revenue 88% annually, on average. Its stock dropped 9% a year over that span. Discovery is scheduled to release second-quarter numbers Aug. 3. Its stock sells for a PEG ratio of 0.8, a 20% discount to fair value. Roughly 72% of analysts covering Discovery's stock rate it "buy." A median target of $42.47 suggests 16% of upside.

-- Reported by Jake Lynch in Boston.

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