3 Stocks Near 52-Week Lows Worth Buying

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Just as we examine companies each week that may be rising past their fair value, we can also find companies potentially trading at a bargain price. While many investors would rather have nothing to do with companies tipping the scales at 52-week lows, I think it makes a lot of sense to determine whether the market has overreacted to the downside, just as we often do to the upside.

Here's a look at three fallen angels trading near their 52-week lows that could be worth buying.

Unlocking value
Shareholders took poorly last week's announcement from Comverse Technologies (Nasdaq: CMVT  ) that it was going to spin off its Comverse software division, and sent the stock to a new 52-week intraday low. But did investors overreact to the news? I think so.

It really wasn't a secret that Comverse had been looking for ways to unlock shareholder value, but many investors thought it would put its entire company on the auction block. Even though it appears Comverse didn't get any adequate takeover bids, it's still going to unlock shareholder equity by spinning off Comverse, its software applications and subscriber management division.

Comverse Technology, which is actually a holding company comprised of Comverse and majority-owned subsidiaries Starhome and Verint Systems (Nasdaq: VRNT  ) , a workforce optimization company, showed operating profits across all three businesses in the third quarter. Comverse's operating margin through the first three quarters of fiscal 2011 is also up 440 basis points over the year-ago period. With Comverse valued at just 11 times forward earnings, I think there's a lot of value left to be unlocked for long-term shareholders.

Buying necessity
Some sectors of the market are simply no-brainer long-term buys, and as I see it, health care is one such sector. As the world's population ages, the need for medical technologies and supplies is going to go up as well. Any medical technologies company currently turning a profit with products that are unlikely to be phased out any time soon could be a great long-term buy. That's why this week I'm adding CareFusion (NYSE: CFN  ) to the buy list.

CareFusion shareholders went running for the hills last Monday when the company cautioned investors that it would not meet its own previous revenue guidance. The company cited disappointing sales of its ChloraPrep antiseptic and various infusion products as the reason for the shortfall. Still, CareFusion stuck to its sales forecast and with last week's dip is now trading at only 11 times forward earnings. Keep in mind this is a company that boosted its gross margin from 44% in 2009 to more than 51% in fiscal 2011. Those are the type of figures I can get behind!

Vive la France
Whether you like a good French joke or not, you have to like France Telecom (NYSE: FTE  ) dancing near a new 52-week low. France Telecom, the fourth-largest telecom provider in Europe by revenue, has been under pressure for months because of continued uncertainties surrounding the European sovereign debt crisis. Adding to investors' worries was the emergence of a new competitor last week named Free. Free is a new mobile service operated by Iliad that's promising to undercut the pricing packages on Orange, France Telecom's dominant wireless segment. Despite all of the above, consider me not too concerned.

The reason I'm not too concerned has to do with the way the major telecoms in the U.S. beat around Vonage (NYSE: VG  ) when it tried to infiltrate the market with its door-buster phone prices. Despite offering a clear pricing advantage to Verizon and AT&T, Vonage hasn't been able to head higher because of its minuscule margins and high debt. I feel Free will run into many of the same issues.

Therefore, we're left with France Telecom, a company valued at just seven times forward earnings, 1.1 times book and 2.4 times cash flow. All of these figures represent lows not seen since 2002 or even earlier. France Telecom is profitable and stable, and pays out a handsome 9% yield at the moment. Set it and forget it; this one's a long-term winner.

Foolish roundup
This week we we're reminded that it's not always about the quick trade. These three companies have solidly profitable businesses and sound long-term strategies. I'm so confident they'll succeed that I plan to make a CAPScall of outperform on each one. The question now: Would you do the same?

In the meantime, consider adding these potential winners to your free and personalized watchlist and get your own personal copy of our latest special report, "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012," and see what our chief investment officer has dubbed the "Costco of Latin America." Best of all, this report is completely free, so don't miss out!

Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. He always loves a good French joke. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of France Telecom. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that's always on the lookout for a good deal.

Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (4)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 17, 2012, at 4:43 PM, dgroves0 wrote:

    You mention Vonage, sounds like the usual MF sour grapes:

    """Vonage hasn't been able to head higher because of its minuscule margins and high debt."""

    Perhaps you haven't been keeping up?

    Their gross margin of 66% really isn't "miniscule"

    After the coming full year 2011 Earnings CC on Feb 14th, Their NET margin will be reported at 15%++

    Their "High Debt" was cut from $220 million in 2010 to $110 million as of the Sept, 30 2011 Earnings report.

    NET debt was $55 million. as of that report

    They have been generating over $25 million FCF each quarter.

    So actual NET debt will be $30 million this report.

    Since their nine month GAAP earnings are $.26 and they are expected to earn $.11, last quarter, They will have first time positive ttm GAAP earnings of $.37 for 2011 (VS a $.36 loss 2010 - 200% gain in earnings.)

    2012 expexted earnings are GAAP $.48 - $.50 - Which will be a 33% improvement.

    They have announced they will be adding a new universal product in coming weeks, and will soon be announcing new partnerships.

    Time to get a new whipping boy other than Vonage.

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