4. NovaGold Resources: High risk
Way out in the Alaskan wilderness, in the far, far northwest, is an area known as Donlin Creek. There is gold in them thar hills. Lots of it.
Developers say they've found at least 34 million ounces of "proven and probable" reserves -- with a gross value today of $54 billion -- and there is almost certainly much more.
The Donlin Creek gold project is split between Barrick Gold (ABX), one of the world's largest gold-mining companies, and NovaGold Resources (NG), a small one. At $5 and change a share, NovaGold is valued at $1.7 billion.
It will be many years -- maybe eight -- before Donlin Creek actually starts producing its first gold. And, as the adage goes, there is many a slip between cup and lip.
Gold exploration is famously exciting for investors and not always in a good way. In this case, you are taking a flyer on both production and the future of gold prices.
Some really smart people have joined the gamble on this stock, including hedge-fund managers Seth Klarman and John Paulson and Fidelity Investments' star fund manager Will Danoff. It's speculative, but fun.
5. Nokia: High risk
Twelve years ago, Finland's Nokia (NOK) ruled the world cellphone industry and was valued at more than $250 billion. Today, it's on its knees and valued at around $10 billion. The company, whose American depositary shares now sell for less than $3, was caught flat-footed by the iPhone revolution.
Today, Nokia makes a fascinating wager. At long last, the company is in a turnaround under an outsider. New CEO Stephen Elop has junked the old software platform in favor of Microsoft's (MSFT) new, and surprisingly impressive, Windows Phone 7. (Microsoft is the publisher of MSN Money.)
The transition is proving painful. Sales collapsed last quarter. The old lines stopped selling, and the new ones are just getting going.
Nokia has a strong balance sheet and some worthwhile assets: a very strong brand in most of the world, great hardware, plenty of patents and know-how. The alliance with Microsoft is a powerful one. Maybe Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) have already "won" the mobile-phone business, and everyone else is doomed. But that's what they once said about Nokia.
Things change in this industry. Microsoft, which is desperate to play catch-up in smartphones, could buy Nokia today out of petty cash.
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