Just as we examine companies each week that may be rising past their fair values, we can also find companies trading at what may be bargain prices. While many investors would rather have nothing to do with stocks wallowing at 52-week lows, I think it makes a lot of sense to determine whether the market has overreacted to a company's bad news, just as we often do when the market reacts to good news.
Here's a look at three fallen angels trading near their 52-week lows that could be worth buying.
Tag it and bag it
The first quarter was not kind to retailers, and that holds true whether companies were succeeding or struggling prior to the exceptionally cold winter. Shares in specialty handbag and accessories retailer Coach (NYSE:COH), for example, have been crushed over the past year, losing a third of their value as tougher competition and a higher price point has made moving its handbags difficult at times.
As Coach noted in its third-quarter results, which were released five weeks ago, sales fell 7% year over year, including a 2% negative effect from currency translation. Net income fell 20% to $191 million. Coach blamed the frigid winter for its weak U.S. sales, but also pointed to the shift in the Easter holiday to its fourth-quarter, as well as the strategic decision to eliminate third-party events on its website, as reasons behind its sales troubles.
While some investors view this sales decline as endemic, I view it as one heck of an opportunity to buy a strong brand-name company at a bargain price.
I believe Coach's weakness in the third quarter is actually a source of long-term strength. As noted, Coach alluded to eliminating third-party events as a source of weakness. Eliminating special events and fighting back against discounting, while detrimental in the short term, protect the quality and integrity of the Coach brand over the long run and will enable it to boost prices as needed to improve profitability. Furthermore, the absence of continuous promotions allows Coach customers to buy anytime throughout the year with the understanding that they're getting the best possible price.
Another key point here is that Coach is seeing strong growth in foreign markets. China sales jumped by more than 25% in the third quarter, with comparable-store sales in the nation rising by double digits, according to the company's earnings press release.
Finally, Coach is making strides where it can to improve shareholder value. It repurchased 3.6 million shares in the latest quarter, which can help improve overall earnings per share and makes the company appear cheaper on a valuation basis. Also, Coach declared a quarterly payout of $0.3375 per share, which currently equates to a healthy annual yield of 3.3%. In just the past four years Coach has grown this payout by a staggering 350% and continues to demonstrate that it'll put shareholders first.
With a forward P/E of just 14 and a yield that should make income investors look twice, I'd suggest you consider tagging and bagging Coach for your own portfolio.
Last (wo)man standing
Sticking with the retail sector for this week's second selection, I suggest that more risk-willing investors who aren't afraid of cyclical hiccups give Chico's FAS (NYSE:CHS) a closer look.
Chico's operates close to 1,500 stores across the U.S., catering to mature women with its Chico's franchise while hitting a broader audience with its Soma Intimates stores and its White House/Black Market locations.
As you might have expected with the stock traipsing along near a 52-week low, it's first-quarter results (like much of the retail sector) missed the mark. Per its press release, Chico's eked out a 1.6% increase in net sales to $681.6 million, but this was entirely due to strength in numbers since more stores opened this year than in the prior-year quarter. Comparable-store sales dipped less than 1% at Chico's, rose by high single digits at Soma, and collapsed 8.6% at White House/Black Market. Like Coach, Chico's blamed the weather for its weaker results, as well as a higher promotional environment meant to drive foot traffic into its stores.
Short-sellers certainly would have merit to say this wasn't a good quarter, but I believe they'd be foolish to think Chico's underperformance is going to extend for a long period of time.
Consider for a moment the positive impact on the Chico's brand from lower competition. Over the past couple years the mature woman's clothing category has seen Talbots close a number of locations and sell itself to a private-equity group on the cheap. Then, just a few months ago, Coldwater Creek announced its liquidation. This is an immense opportunity for department stores to pick up customers, but few offer the clothing specialization geared toward the mature shopper that Chico's FAS provides.
Another key point to Chico's success is that it finances expansion solely from its cash on hand and free cash flow. Chico's ended its latest quarter with $171.5 million in cash ($1.16 per share) and no debt, allowing it to dictate the pace of its expansion without having to dip into debt. This also gives Chico's more flexibility than its dwindling peers and allows it to optimally weather the natural cyclicality inherent in the apparel business.
Lastly, I believe investors are sorely underestimating the potential of its Soma Intimates brand. While it's no Victoria's Secret, Soma is among the few lingerie stores where consumers can expect to find a wide variety of price points and quality levels. For what is essentially a basic-necessity provider, Soma offers a year-round attraction for customer traffic.
Altogether, at a forward P/E of just 15 and with a yield of 2% to boot, Chico's looks like a solid candidate to find its footing in the coming quarters.
A company you should Know(les) about
Getting me to take a closer look at a recent IPO is akin to persuading me to go to the doctor for an annual checkup. Unless I'm hog-tied, it's generally not happening. However, I'm going to break my rule for a somewhat recent IPO whose recent weakness looks like an intriguing buying opportunity. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Knowles (NYSE:KN) to your potential buy list.
Knowles is a producer of communications equipment used by mobile device and telecom infrastructure companies, as well as the medical, aerospace, and industrial sectors. These components range from acoustic products for the mobile-phone market to capacitors used in devices such as radios and medical implants.
Knowles took a bit of a beating after it reported it first-quarter results in late April. For the first quarter, Knowles' sales fell by a bit more than 1%, to $273.4 million, from the year-ago period; net income tumbled to $7.6 million from the $11.9 million it reported in the prior-year quarter. What really worried Wall Street was the company's expectation that it would begin expanding its margins in the fourth quarter of this year. Investors are generally not patient with IPOs, and it's clear they were expecting more. It also doesn't help that struggling mobile-phone developers Nokia and BlackBerry are both sizable clients of Knowles.
However, I believe investors have an opportunity to take advantage of this weakness in Knowles' share price.
To begin with, talk about an incredible breadth of product inventory and opportunity. With its fingers in a number of long-term growth sectors, I suspect Knowles is uniquely positioned to fend off the natural cyclicality of the tech sector better than a number of its communication equipment peers.
Perhaps even more important is Knowles' expectation that it will deliver margin expansion once again by the fourth quarter. A big component to this margin expansion is reducing its reliance on Nokia and BlackBerry moving forward. JMP Securities noted shortly after Knowles released its quarterly results that it expects Knowles' exposure to these struggling mobile giants will dip below 5% by the end of the second quarter.
Finally, despite its profit tumble in the first quarter, Knowles is healthfully profitable. The company has generated an average of $66 million in annual free cash flow over the past three years while maintaining double-digit operating margins. With the prospect of margin expansion within view and the company valued at a mere 12 times forward earnings, I'd suggest you give Knowles a closer look.
These 3 stocks hold plenty of potential, but even they may not be able to keep pace with this top stock over the long term.
Give us five minutes and we'll show how you could own the best stock for 2014. Every year, The Motley Fool's chief investment officer hand-picks one stock with outstanding potential. But it's not just any run-of-the-mill company. It's a stock perfectly positioned to cash in on one of the upcoming year's most lucrative trends. Last year his pick skyrocketed 134%. And previous top picks have gained upwards of 908%, 1,252% and 1,303% over the subsequent years! Believe me, you don't want to miss what could be his biggest winner yet! Just click here to download your free copy of "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014" today.
Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. 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.
The Motley Fool owns shares of, and recommends Coach. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.