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Contrarian investors often repeat Warren Buffett's famous saying:
"I will tell you how to become rich: Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful."
Easy to say. Hard to do. If it weren't, everyone would be rich. But with Buffett's advice in mind, I've rounded up what I consider the five biggest contrarian investing ideas right now.
1. Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO )
Cisco's been steadily falling since February. It's now down 25% over the past six months. This networking company sells products that allow servers, computers, and other devices to connect to each other over the Internet.
Cisco gets no respect for being dominant in its markets. Analysts estimate the firm has a 58% market share in networking equipment. Yet for such a powerful company, the stock is inexpensive any way you look at it.
The company trades for a P/E of 12 and a P/FCF of 9.3. It has a rock-solid balance sheet, with net cash of just more than $25 billion representing 30% of its market cap. Some analysts dismiss the company's cash hoard, since most of it resides abroad. But even if it were all brought back to the U.S., and taxed at 35%, the company would still have a net cash position of $10 billion.
On top of all this, Cisco pays a 1.5% dividend and has plenty of room to expand it. Furthermore, if Uncle Sam declared a tax holiday for repatriating cash, Cisco could bring its cash over and pay a large special dividend.
Click here to add Cisco to your watchlist.
2. Annaly Capital Management (NYSE: NLY )
While Annaly's share price has remained basically unchanged over the past six months, it's still a contrarian pick, since the shares yield a whopping 14%. If it weren't contrarian, the yield for Annaly and its related company Chimera (NYSE: CIM ) , at 15.1%, would be much lower.
Annaly is a REIT that borrows money at the cheap interest rates available today, and with it, buys higher-interest, government-guaranteed, residential mortgage-backed securities. (That's a mouthful!) So why is the yield so high? Investors fear that the spread between the rates at which the company can borrow and lend will narrow far enough to prevent Annaly from paying the huge dividends its investors are clamoring for. Annaly is a good bet if you believe the government will continue to keep short-term interest rates low.
Click here to add Annaly Capital Management to your watchlist.
3. Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM )
Research In Motion had been steadily falling until June 17, when the stock suddenly entered freefall. RIM plunged a whopping 23% after missing earnings expectations, capping off a 55% decline over the last six months. Market share lost to the iPhone and Android-based phones, rising iPad sales, a longer-than-expected overhaul of its software platform, and a restructuring have all hurt RIM's performance.
Before earnings, the shares looked cheap, with a P/E of 5.5 and a free cash flow yield of 15.6%. After earnings, the shares still look cheap, with a new P/E of 4.5 and a free cash flow yield of 17%. On the balance sheet side, you don't need to worry, since the company has no debt. Research In Motion is a good bet if you believe its future is not as bleak as analysts think.
Click here to add Research In Motion to your watchlist.
4. CSC (NYSE: CSC )
CSC is down 30% over the past six months after reporting disappointing earnings and weak guidance. One of the world's largest IT services firms, CSC runs essential IT processes and functions for governments and businesses. The U.S. government is CSCs biggest customer, making up 37% of its revenue in fiscal 2011.
It may seem ludicrous to purchase a company so dependent on the government, when every day Democrats and Republicans talk of throwing America under the bus. Still, the company is a cash cow, generating $900 million in free cash flow for the trailing 12 months ended April 1. That puts the firm's valuation at just more than times FCF. You rarely find solid companies trading that low.
Click here to add CSC to your watchlist.
5. AIG (NYSE: AIG )
AIG is down 48% over the past six months, and now trades $2 below its May re-IPO price of $29. If you are an American, you currently own 77% of AIG through the Treasury Department. While you might be appalled at the thought of increasing your stake, there's a lot to like about AIG.
The company remains strong in property & casualty insurance, with a 7.4% market share, and life insurance, with a 1.4% market share. On top of that, the stock is cheap, trading for a P/B of 0.6 and a P/E of 8.4. Compare that to peers Prudential Financial (0.95,11) or MetLife (0.9,14.8), and you can see why AIG is star fund manager Bruce Berkowitz's largest position. Investors worry that continued government selling will weigh down the stock, but to this Fool, AIG looks like a great contrarian pick.
Click here to add AIG to your watchlist.
Foolish bottom line
These five plays are getting no respect from the market. Intelligent investors should get greedy while the market is fearful. If you're looking for more ideas, the Fool recently wrote a report highlighting five stocks that Motley Fool has bought for its own account, including one stock I highlighted in this article. I invite you to download it for free, just click here.