What companies are tomorrow's big winners? In our ongoing series, I'm chatting with Fool analysts and advisors to discover the stocks they're watching, and the catalysts that would signal it's time to buy. Today, Motley Fool Options advisor Jim Gillies shares four companies that he finds undervalued and nearly ready to make the leap to your portfolio from your watchlist. (For your convenience, you can now create your own version at MyWatchlist.com, your free customized hub to follow the performance and Fool coverage of the companies you care about.)
Three banks to consider
Canadian bankers aren't much fun to party with. They live with tighter regulations, and they're much more risk-averse than their neighbors to the south. Pretty dull. But that's just fine for Jim and the conservative, bedrock portion of his portfolio. Today, he's most interested in the big Canadian banks, specifically last year's laggards. The Bank of Nova Scotia (NYSE: BNS ) is within spitting distance of its 52-week high, but it's a solid, well-run bank that has weathered the financial storm. The Bank of Montreal (NYSE: BMO ) has also seen its share price rise, but not so much that it's not worth watching. And although Jim refers to Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (NYSE: CM ) as "the bank most likely to walk into a sharp object," he also sees long-term value here.
Although CIBC has a history of getting mixed up with the wrong crowd -- every time a Global Crossing or an Enron or a WorldCom or a subprime debacle pops up, that bank seems to surface among the large investors -- Canadian banks live by the unofficial motto, "Thou shalt not cut thy dividend." They'll sell debt, they'll make preferred offerings, but they're generally not going to touch their payments to shareholders. And now that the credit crisis is abating, Canadian banks look ready to raise their dividends. History shows Jim that those bumps have generally been in the range from 7% to 10% annualized, which equals a whole lot of loonies.
And one monster to buy
There's a little company, says Jim in his storytelling voice, that once upon a time announced disappointing earnings and got whacked nearly 20% over the next week. That "little company" is Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) , the king of network equipment for big business and government. "I'm amazed that a nine-figure company somehow was able to offend the chattering classes to the tune of 16+% in a single morning on results that frankly weren't that bad."
The company disappointed investors last month by predicting quarterly revenue growth of only 3% to 5%, while its rivals didn't seem to share Cisco's problems. But that doesn't obscure the fact -- at least for rational investors -- that Cisco is still the industry standard in its networking markets, and is making inroads into new areas, including the consumer space, with video tools. Better yet, it'll begin paying a dividend next year.
Jim owned shares of the giant more than a decade ago, and he's now eyeing a "larger" investment thanks to the deep discount the market is providing. He's made a long-term call option play while he does his due diligence. With the expected capital appreciation and a newly minted dividend, "Cisco could well be the meganame for the next leg of the market," says Jim. "We're getting a great name at a big bargain right now."
And that's why it pays to watch. You can make smarter investing decisions with your own version of My Watchlist, new and free from the Fool. Click below to start following one of the stocks mentioned above: