While share prices can change for a variety of reasons, improved profitability has historically been one of the most dominant factors. Whether that's a rise in profit or a return to profit after a period of losses, investors seem to heavily reward companies which are able to deliver a sustained improvement to their bottom lines. Here are two stocks on the cusp of that position which could be worth buying for the long term.
Reporting on Wednesday was online advertising specialist RhythmOne(LSE: RTHM). Its trading update for the most recent financial year shows that it has made excellent progress towards its target of returning to profitability. This was aided by a rise in core revenue of 28%, which pushed total revenue 5% higher. This led to a swing in EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) of $11.7m, with the company reporting EBITDA of $1.2m.
Clearly, 2017 was a pivotal year for RhythmOne. It saw a continuation of the fundamental transformation which started two years ago that has put the company in a much stronger position. Its investment in core strategic capabilities across mobile, video and programmatic trading has been hugely beneficial. Its acceleration of the drawdown of certain historical non-core and non-programmatic product lines has also delivered improved financial performance.
Looking ahead, the company has an upbeat outlook. It is expected to deliver a black bottom line in the current financial year and then record growth of 91% in the next financial year. This puts its shares on a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of just 0.2, which indicates that they offer a wide margin of safety.
With the company's growth strategy continuing to deliver improved performance, its shares may not remain so cheap for all that long. Therefore, now could be the perfect time to buy them.
While betting company Sportech(LSE: SPO) is forecast to record a rise in its bottom line of just 3% this year, its outlook for next year is much more positive. It is expected to deliver a rise in its earnings of 17%, which has the potential to create a step change in investor sentiment following a rather mixed period for the business. For example, in the last five years its earnings have fallen in three financial years and were 9% lower in 2016 than they were in 2011.
Possibly because of its volatile track record of earnings growth, Sportech's shares trade on a relatively low valuation. They have a PEG ratio of only 0.9, which indicates that now could be the perfect time to buy them. Certainly, competition within the gaming and betting sector is becoming increasingly intense and this has led to sector consolidation. However, with a clear catalyst to push its share price higher, Sportech could be a relatively strong performer in the long run.
Top growth stock
Despite this, there's another stock that could be an even better buy. In fact it's been named as A Top Growth Share From The Motley Fool.
The company in question could be set to deliver stunning share price performance. It could boost your portfolio returns in 2017 and beyond.
Click here to find out all about it - doing so is completely free and comes without any obligation.
Peter Stephens has no position in any 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.