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The TSX Composite has kept its head above water for most of this year, but barely. As of the close on Nov. 17, the year-to-date gain was just over 4 per cent. That’s a lot better than last year but well behind the S&P 500, which has gained 17.5 per cent so far in 2023.

What’s the S&P got going for it that we don’t? Information technology, that’s what. mega-tech companies have been the driving force behind the S&P and Nasdaq year-to-date. As of Nov. 17, the S&P 500 Info Tech Index was up almost 50 per cent in 2023. The rest of the S&P was more-or-less flat.

It’s not that Canada doesn’t have any tech companies. We do, and they’re performing well. The TSX Capped Information Technology Index has gained 48 per cent this year. That’s far and away the best performance among the TSX subindexes but it doesn’t have much impact on the composite because technology companies have a weighting of only 7.3 per cent. The S&P weighting is 27.5 per cent.

Our best-known tech company is Ottawa-based Shopify Inc. SHOP-T. It operates worldwide and has a market cap of almost $120-billion. The stock has almost doubled this year, but that’s after a stunning 80 per cent decline that began in the fall of 2021 and continued through most of 2022. The shares are currently trading at about half their all-time high, reached in November, 2021.

The most intriguing Canadian tech story is that of Celestica Inc. CLS-T, which emerged from nowhere to post the biggest gain on the TSX Composite this year, by far. As of Nov. 17, the stock was ahead 152 per cent in 2023, and still gaining. What’s going on?

First, some history. Toronto-based Celestica employs 26,000 people. It first saw the light of day in 1996 as a subsidiary of IBM. In 1996, it was sold to Onex Corp. (ONEX-T). Onex has been divesting its shares recently.

CLS began trading publicly in 1998 with the sale of 20.6 million shares. That was during the dot-com boom and, like everything else tech-related, the share price went wild in the next few years. The stock reached an all-time high of $108.80 in November, 2000, then collapsed.

By March, 2003 the stock was trading below $17 and since then it has bumped along in the mid-teens, largely ignored by investors. Until this year, that is. The stock began 2023 in the $15 range, cracked through the $20 level in July, and has just kept going. It closed Friday at $38.46, up 62 cents on the day.

The turnaround dates back to 2016, when the company embarked on a plan to diversify its portfolio, invest in engineering offerings, and improve profitability. The goal was to become “the undisputed industry leader in product and platform solutions across higher value markets.” These markets include defence and aerospace, healthtech, communications, industrial, and capital equipment.

One of the key drivers of the stock is the company’s development of artificial intelligence (AI) products. Its 800G family of network switches supports cutting-edge AI, machine learning (ML), and high-performance computing requirements.

To encourage investors to revisit the stock, the company aims at improving adjusted earnings per share by 10+ per cent annually over the long term. The immediate goal is to generate adjusted EPS of US$2.40 or more in 2025.

The transformation started to pay off in the 2022 fiscal year. The company reported a 29-per-cent increase in revenue, to US$7.3-billion, the highest since 2011. Of that, US$4.3-billion came from its connectivity and cloud suite of products and the remainder from advanced technology solutions. Adjusted earnings per share were US$1.90, the highest in the company’s history.

Growth has continued this year. Third-quarter revenue was just over US$2-billion, up 6 per cent from the same period last year. Adjusted earnings per share came in at 65 US cents compared with 52 US cents the year before.

For the first nine months of the year, revenue was US$5.8-billion, up 11.5 per cent from US$5.2-billion in 2022. Adjusted net earnings were US$202-million (US$1.68 per diluted share), up from US$166-million (US$1.34) in the prior year.

Celestica projects fourth-quarter revenue will be between US$2-billion and US$2.15-billion. Adjusted earnings per share are forecast to come in between 65 US cents and 71 US cents.

The stock does not pay a dividend. However, the company expects to launch a new normal course issuer bid in December that would allow it to repurchase up to 10 per cent of its public float.

Despite the recent price run-up, the stock trades at a reasonable P/W ratio of 16.65. I rate it a buy for long-term growth.

Gordon Pape is Editor and Publisher of the Internet Wealth Builder and Income Investor newsletters.

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