Just as we examine companies each week that may be rising past their fair value, we can also find companies potentially trading at bargain prices. 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 when the market reacts to the upside.
Here's a look at three fallen angels trading near their 52-week lows that could be worth buying.
Cloud computing, the EZ way
Apparently I'm still feeling the effects of a recent vacation, because we're going to be getting aggressive again with the first pick this week, EZchip Semiconductor (Nasdaq: EZCH ) .
Last week was a week to forget for EZchip. The company nosedived after noting that a weak macro outlook coupled with integration delays for some of its customers who had been using its prototype NP-4 networking chip would cause its revenue to miss targets and actually dip year over year.
Despite this, there are plenty of positives to keep your eyes on. First, EZchip landed itself a big customer early on in Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) , which is currently working on its second NP-4 based platform. It also counts ZTE as a prominent customer. Second, just keep an eye on EZchip's robust margins. Sales growth may be nonexistent, but non-GAAP gross margin was 82.2% in the recent quarter. This means EZchip has enviably low costs of goods sold, and its net margin after expenses is equally impressive. Finally, EZchip's networking products offer big data centers the potential to transfer data rapidly and could become a force in cloud computing in the future. At 21 times forward earnings, it's not particularly inexpensive, but with 82% gross margins, who's to argue?
It'll keep going and going
The Energizer (NYSE: ENR ) bunny needs your help -- things are going, just not in the best direction at present. In Energizer's most recent quarter, the company noted that it was losing battery shelf space in Wal-Mart to Spectrum Brands' (Nasdaq: SPB ) Rayovac line, and its Schick line of razors was facing tough competition from Gillette's razors. Overall, Energizer's sales and profit expectations fell short of Wall Street's estimates, but Energizer stuck to its full-year EPS forecast of $6 to $6.20.
It wasn't a great quarter by any means, but the bunny could be ripe for the taking. Energizer introduced its first quarterly dividend in May in an effort to return value to shareholders with many of its product lines having matured. The yield from that dividend has now jumped to 2.4%. Also, much of what Energizer sells are basic consumer goods. The downside of that means little consumer loyalty (i.e., they would just as easily choose a cheaper product over Energizer's), but it also means pretty decent pricing power and the ability to control costs for Energizer. Rather than get into an ad blitz with Gillette, Energizer is going to focus on reducing marketing and improving operating efficiencies even further. At about 10 times this year's earnings, I feel now is the time to pound the table on Energizer.
For when you've fallen and can't get up
I know what you're probably thinking, and no, it's not Aflac I'm going to mention here, but its competitor Unum Group (NYSE: UNM ) instead.
Disability supplemental insurance provider Unum reported its second-quarter results this month, and they mostly underwhelmed. Although overall profits ticked past Wall Street's projections, it took sizable share buybacks to reach that level. The company also doesn't anticipate it'll meet its target of 6%-12% growth in EPS this year because of significant operating weakness in its U.K. operations.
However, look at this from another angle. Even with those reduced expectations, Unum is trading at roughly six times next year's earnings. Within the U.S., one would expect that with the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is aimed to make health care more affordable for a greater number of people, more people will opt to purchase supplemental insurance. That could bode well for Unum's long-term outlook. I'd rather the company focus more on dividends than buybacks, but at least its payouts have been heading in the right direction in recent months. Unum's current yield of 2.7% is a nice bonus while you wait for it to fix its Europe segment problems.
Unum won't shoot out of the gate, but it has nice long-term appeal and value.
This week's theme is that sometimes you need to look all over the place for great ideas. I highlighted a networking play, a basic consumer goods play, and an insurance play. Each offers something different for investors, depending on their risk tolerance and investing time horizon, but all appear to be winners.
In the meantime, consider adding these potential winners to your free and personalized watchlist, and get your own personal copy of our special report "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." Find out which company our chief investment officer has dubbed the "Costco of Latin America." Best of all, this report is completely free, so don't miss out!