I'd happily sell BP plc to buy this secret growth star


It's no surprise to me to see BP's (LSE: BP) share price surge that spanned from the autumn to the opening bells of 2018 grind to a painful halt more recently.

In less than two months the oil leviathan has seen its market value collapse from January's seven-year tops above 530p per share, its descent reflecting the recent downturn in crude values. And in the current climate I believe BP has much, much further to fall.

But before I carry on about the FTSE 100 driller, I'd like to look at a little-known share I would be happy to splash the cash on today, LoopUp Group (LSE: LOOP).

Video star

The video conferencing specialist's shares were back on the charge in Tuesday trading following the release of knockout full-year numbers.

It was last dealing 9% on the day after declaring that revenues (excluding the discontinued BT technology licensing business) boomed 36% in 2017, to £17.5m, a result that helped it swing to an operating profit of £700,000 from a loss of £300,000 a year earlier.

LoopUp commented: "We continue to see strong demand for our product from our target market of mid-to-large enterprise and professional services firms." And lauding its bright outlook, it added: "Our highly differentiated market positioning and competitive strategy, combined with our efficient new business unit economics, make for an exciting outlook and we remain confident in our ability to deliver further growth."

In the period, LoopUp witnessed "particularly strong revenue growth in the US," and it now generates just over half of revenues Stateside. Some 40% of revenues are sourced from the UK, 7% from mainland Europe and 2% from the rest of the world, a spread that gives earnings that little bit more protection.

LoopUp is expected to report earnings growth of 39% in 2018 and 108% next year, but today's broker-beating numbers are likely to lead to significant upgrades to these numbers. And I reckon further positive revisions can be expected given the pace at which sales are taking off.

These factors mean that I reckon LoopUp is a terrific buy today, despite its elevated forward P/E ratio of 54.5 times.

US production climbs

BP trades on a much more reasonable prospective P/E ratio of 15.1 times. However, I would be reluctant to buy into the business even at current price levels.

Oil values may have given up some ground in recent weeks but some are arguing that they are still looking overbought at current levels around $65 per barrel. It is difficult to argue against this in my opinion as producers in the States continue to ramp up output. Latest Baker Hughes data showed the number of oil rigs plugged into US soil barge through the 800 marker last week for the first time since the spring 2015.

On the plus side, the outlook for energy demand, and in particular from emerging economies, looks pretty strong at the moment. But of course, supply constraints like those by OPEC and Russia are needed to rebalance the market and keep prices supported, and with the US and other countries investing heavily in fossil fuels, the oil market is likely to remain oversupplied for some time yet.

Brokers may be predicting earnings growth of 153% and 7% at BP in 2018 and 2019 respectively. These figures look a little fragile though, and I believe risk-averse investors should give the company a wide berth.

Don't regret ignoring this growth tip

In light of these factors, I am more than happy to sit on my hands rather than splash the cash on BP. But while there remains a lot of uncertainty facing the oil giant in the near term and beyond, the investment case for the stock detailed in this special Fool report is much more compelling, in my opinion.

The Motley Fool's A Top Growth Share report looks at a brilliant FTSE 250 stock that has already delivered stunning shareholder returns, and whose sales are expected to balloon in the next few years. Click here to enjoy this exclusive wealth report.  It's 100% free and comes with no obligation, so why not download your copy today?

Royston Wild has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended BP. 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.