August 31, 2007
At the conclusion of every piece I've ever written for The Motley Fool, I've invited comments or questions. That's not a perfunctory invitation; I really want to know what readers think of the companies I write about. As a result, I've received some wonderful notes from some highly intelligent investors.
This time I'd especially like to hear from my Foolish friends. The issue: I can't for the life of me justify why a company like Diamond Offshore (NYSE: DO ) -- a top participant in an industry characterized by increasing demand, higher day-rates, and generally longer-term contracts -- trades at such a distinct discount to the general markets. Diamond, along with its drilling brethren Transocean (NYSE: RIG ) and Ensco (NYSE: ESV ) (differing drillers, to be sure) all trade at basement-level forward P/Es in the range of seven to nine times.
Let's quickly undertake a possibly strange comparison between, for instance: the major newspaper companies and drillers. In contrast to the drillers' 50% discount to the broader markets, New York Times (NYSE: NYT ) and Tribune (NYSE: TRB ) -- companies with clearly deteriorating fundamentals -- sport forward P/Es around 18 times, or slightly above the broad markets. Where I went to school, that's more than two times the drillers' levels.
Now let's talk about my beloved PEG ratios, (P/E divided by five-year anticipated growth rate, such that lower numbers are better and anything below 1.0 is unusually compelling). For our three drillers, the average PEG ratio is an almost unbelievable 0.39. That contrasts to more than a 3.6 average for the two walking-wounded newspaper publishers.
All of which leads to our final metric stop: relative betas. The three drillers average a beta of 1.4, indicating that their shares tend to bounce around more than the general market and far more than the publishers, who sport a 0.7 average.
There you have it -- that old cyclicality charge. For my money, I'm not opposed to being tied to an industry with bright prospects whose relationship to commodities pricing occasionally causes its shares to bounce. Better that than a steady downward spiral. I'd welcome the opinions of interested Fools.
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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He really does solicit your comments. The Motley Fool has an extremely deep disclosure policy.