Artificial intelligence (AI) promises to be one of the most transformative technologies of our time. It has already proven it can reliably complete complex tasks almost instantaneously, eliminating the need for days or even weeks of human input in many cases.
The challenge for companies developing this advanced technology is building a business model that can deliver it efficiently since AI is a brand-new industry with little existing precedent. That’s what makes C3.ai ( AI -0.24% ) a trailblazer, as it’s the first platform AI provider helping companies in almost any industry access the technology’s benefits.
C3.ai just reported its fiscal 2022 third-quarter earnings result, and it revealed continued growth across key metrics, further cementing the case for owning its stock for the long run.
Delivering artificial intelligence for all industries
As more of the economy transitions into the digital realm, a growing number of companies will find themselves with access to game-changing tech like artificial intelligence. In the second quarter of fiscal 2022, C3.ai said it was serving 14 different industries, double the amount from the corresponding quarter in the previous year. It indicates that more sectors are already proactively seeking the benefits of AI.
One of those sectors is oil and gas, which represents the largest portion of C3.ai’s total revenue. The company has a long-standing partnership with oil giant Baker Hughes. Together, the two companies have developed a suite of AI applications to predict critical equipment failures and reduce carbon emissions in drilling and production operations.
Shell is a core customer of these applications, and it’s using them to monitor 10,000 devices and 23 large-scale oil assets, with the technology processing 1.3 trillion predictions per month.
In the recent Q3 of fiscal 2022, C3.ai revealed a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense worth $500 million over the next five years. It’s designed to accelerate the adoption of AI applications across the defense segment of the federal government.
But some of C3.ai’s most impressive partnerships are those with tech behemoths like Microsoft and Alphabet‘s Google. They’re collaborating with C3.ai to deploy AI applications in the cloud to better serve their customers in manufacturing, healthcare, and financial services, among other industries.
Soaring growth across key metrics
From the moment a potential customer engages C3.ai, it can take up to six months to deploy their AI application. Therefore, it’s important to watch the company’s customer count as it can be a leading indicator for revenue growth in the future.
In fiscal Q3 2022, C3.ai reported having 218 customers, which was an 81% jump over Q3 2021. Over the same period, remaining performance obligations (which are expected to convert to revenue in the future) climbed by 90% to $469 million.
Since quarterly revenue grew a more modest 42% in the same time span, both of the above metrics hint at a potential revenue-growth acceleration over the next few years. The company has also raised its sales guidance twice so far in the first nine months of fiscal 2022, albeit by just 2% in total, now estimating $252 million in full-year revenue.
Why the stock is a buy now
C3.ai has been a publicly traded company for a little over a year, listing in December 2020. It quickly rallied to its all-time high stock price of $161 before enduring a painful 87% decline to the $20 it trades at today. The company hasn’t grown as quickly as investors anticipated, and it also hasn’t achieved profitability yet.
But right now, C3.ai trades at a market valuation of $2.1 billion, and it has over $1 billion in cash and short-term investments on its balance sheet. Put simply, investors are only attributing a value of around $1 billion to its AI business despite over $250 million in revenue expected by the close of fiscal 2022 and a portfolio of A-list customers.
Moreover, C3.ai has a gross profit margin of 80%, affording it plenty of optionality when it comes to managing expenses. This places it in a great position to eventually deliver positive earnings per share to investors once it achieves a sufficient level of scale.
While C3.ai stock carries some risk, especially in the middle of the current tech sell-off, by many accounts it’s beginning to look like an attractive long-term bet. Advanced technologies like AI will only grow in demand over time, and this company is a great way to play that trend.
This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.