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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 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.
Profits could be right under your nose
The demand outlook for the oil and natural gas industry couldn't possibly be any stronger, with domestic and emerging markets craving energy assets now more than ever. With this in mind, oil and gas companies are turning to 3-D seismic technology around the globe that'll help them locate new and potentially earnings-accretive assets. That's where seismic software developer ION Geophysical (NYSE: IO ) comes in.
On paper it just seems like a no-brainer kind of investment, but its execution in the latest quarter was nothing short of lacking. Revenue in the second quarter did grow by 15% to $120.9 million, but this was still worse than the $127.5 million the Street expected. The company's break-even EPS was also $0.07 shy of expectations. ION noted that cost overruns, primarily related to its acquisition of 3-D marine systems, and consolidation in the towed steamer market, which reduced the number of seabed contractors and hurt its software revenue, was to blame for its disappointing results.
The good news for shareholders is that these look like very short-term issues. ION expects to recognize more revenue for its software contracts in the second half of the year, and the integration costs and kinks associated with purchasing 3-D marine systems should be gone by the fourth quarter. Currently, with ION at just 10 times forward earnings yet forecast to grow by 13% to 15% annually, it looks like a steal with offshore exploration and production demand only expected to rise.
A step in the right direction
The fact of the matter is that few acquisitions ever go exactly as planned. Regardless of the sector you're invested in, the buying company almost always runs into unexpected delays or higher expenses.
Such is the case with up-and-coming oil and gas driller Midstates Petroleum (NYSE: MPO ) , whose shares were also sacked last week, much like ION, after reporting a smaller-than-expected profit because of acquisition costs. For the quarter, Midstates Petroleum delivered a 23% increase in revenue to $126 million as per-day oil production increased by 21% and operating expenses more than doubled. The big weight that caused Midstates to miss Wall Street's EPS estimates relates to the acquisition of $620 million in assets of Panther Energy in the Anadarko Basin.
But where investors see a miss, I see plenty of opportunity. For one thing, Midstates' largest assets appear to be in the Wilcox Sands formation in Texas and Louisiana. Swift Energy is also a large player in the Wilcox Sands and it has recorded a perfect success rate in its vertical drilling operations in the region. This would lead me to believe that Midstates is in for growing production and stability of cash flow once it truly ramps up its operations in Wilcox.
The other factor I like here is that its Panther Energy assets are two-thirds comprised of higher-margin, higher-demand liquids (45% oil and 21% natural gas liquids). Once this acquisition is in the rearview mirror, it should rapidly ramp up Midstates' earnings potential and make its forward P/E of 11 appear like a bargain.
Its peers say you should buy
The semiconductor industry is certainly among the most boom-and-bust out there, with economic factors and chip pricing contributing to some wild margin swings. Shareholders in Fairchild Semiconductor (NASDAQ: FCS ) , a developer of power and non-power chips for the industrial and technology sectors, know this all too well.
Fairchild's second-quarter results, announced in July, delivered a profit that was shy of the Street's estimates and pointed to a third-quarter revenue outlook that was also short of the consensus. Fairchild blamed weak PC sales amid the rise of smartphones and tablets for much of its woes.
However, two years ago Fairchild Semiconductor announced that it would be laying off 120 of its workers, about 15% of its workforce, in 2011 in an effort to cut expenses, improve efficiency, and better compete overseas. Fairchild is now two years removed from that announcement, and I believe we could be on the cusp of seeing benefits from its restructuring. General and administration expenses dropped modestly, which allowed the company to spend more where it needs to, on R&D. That extra research is beginning to pay off, with industrial appliance chip revenue up 15% this past quarter.
Keep in mind that Fairchild isn't the only company seeing big strength in industrial appliances. Texas Instruments announced nearly a year ago that it planned to drop out of making smartphone processors in its entirety and instead focus on appliance chips. With far less competition and better margins prone to smaller price swings, Texas Instruments opened investors' eyes to the industrial chip opportunity. With peers Infineon, STMicroelectronics, and Texas Instruments all boosting their forecast in the latest quarter, I feel now might be the time to consider buying into Fairchild rather than giving up and heading for the hills.
Sometimes great investments can appear right under your nose if you're willing to look past the one-time cost associated with an acquisition or a restructuring. All three stocks are valued attractively relative to their long-term growth rate, and I'd suggest digging deeper into each one.
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