3 Stocks Near 52-Week Lows Worth Buying

Do these three fallen angels deserve a second chance? You be the judge!

May 6, 2014 at 1:45PM

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.

Worth the risk
There are bad days at the office -- and then there's what Endocyte (NASDAQ:ECYT) shareholders had to endure on Friday. The company announced that a phase 3 trial involving vintafolide, an experimental cancer drug being co-developed with Merck (NYSE:MRK) for platinum-resistant ovarian cancer, would be stopped early due to futility following a recommendation from the independent data safety monitoring board.

The move was particularly odd considering the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use in the EU recommended Vynfinit (the branded EU name for vintafolide) for approval in PR ovarian cancer just weeks earlier.

Some would view this failure as a death knell for Endocyte given that the failure of vintafolide in PR ovarian cancer might preclude it to additional disappointment in other indications where it's being studied such as nonsmall-cell lung cancer and triple-negative breast cancer. I view this drop as potentially overdone and an intriguing opportunity for extremely high-risk tolerance investors to dip their toes in the water with Endocyte.

To begin with, investors should understand that different cancer types can react differently to the same therapy. What works for one indication may be inferior in another. This means Endocyte's positive midstage NSCLC results are still very important. Plus, NSCLC is a much larger potential market than PR ovarian cancer, so there's a still a moat of opportunity for success with vintafolide both in the U.S. and EU.

Secondly, Endocyte is much more than just vintafolide. In total Endocyte has six ongoing clinical trials and three preclinical studies, not counting its phase 3 PR ovarian cancer study. Only three of its clinical studies involves vintafolide meaning there are other oncologic and inflammation therapies in development that could prove successful.

Third (and for now at least), Endocyte has the backing of a large-scale partner in Merck. Ultimately, Merck may choose not to proceed any further with vintafolide's development depending on costs, but even so that wouldn't be a complete loss to Endocyte. Should Merck stick around, Endocyte has an experienced marketing powerhouse and someone to help pay for the exorbitant costs of drug development.

Lastly, Endocyte is incredibly cheap relative to its existing cash. Inclusive of its share offering in April, the company has around $233 million in cash, yet closed last week at a valuation of roughly $240 million. Although this cash is going to dwindle over time due to Endocyte's lack of adequate cash flow and its ongoing R&D costs, the prospect of trading at just $7 million over cash value with a bevy other pipeline products in clinical and preclinical studies seems a bit unwarranted.

Ride the infrastructure wave
Comparatively speaking it wasn't nearly as bad of a week for shareholders of QLogic (NASDAQ:QLGC), a server and storage networking infrastructure products provider, but it certainly felt like it with shares dipping close to 20% in just six trading sessions.

The big culprit was the combination of weak earnings results from its peers, as well as a disappointing fourth-quarter report issued Thursday night. For the quarter, QLogic reported a revenue decline of roughly 1% to $115.7 million, slightly ahead of the midpoint of its previous guidance, as adjusted EPS improved to $0.24 from $0.17 in the prior year period. But QLogic also reported a number of hefty one-time charges totaling $56.5 million, which investors didn't seem to care much for.

Despite the dip, though -- and as an existing shareholder -- I believe it could be time to pull the trigger.

First off, consider the benefit QLogic should see from its $147 million cash purchase of the NetXtreme II Ethernet products business from Broadcom in March. This new line of products should boost revenue by about 10% this year and it sets the company up in new strategic areas where it either had no footprint or small amounts of market share previously. 

Also remember that we're dealing with special charges in the fourth quarter, and not recurring losses. QLogic's top line may be struggling to find its footing with stagnant organic revenue growth, but cost-cutting and operational efficiency improvements have left QLogic strongly profitable. In fact, there's an outside chance I could see the company turn in as much as $1 in EPS in fiscal 2015.

QLogic is also well-capitalized. Even after spending $147 million on the NetXtreme II acquisition it has $278 million in cash and cash equivalents, which equates to more than $3 per share. Networking equipment providers like QLogic keep this cash stashed in the event of weakness like it's witnessing now, and for strategic purchases such as its NetXtreme buy.

Finally, don't forget that telecom infrastructure spending is booming right now led by a fresh wave of industry consolidation. It can take two or three years before we see these investments trickle down to networking suppliers fully, so this could be the perfect opportunity to get in ahead of that infrastructure wave of spending.

Blasted by guidance
Continuing with our theme of bad break Friday's, natural and organic grocery chain Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage (NYSE:NGVC) was throttled late last week after reporting its second-quarter results and delivering a sanguine growth forecast for the remainder of the year.

For the quarter, Natural Grocers reported a 22.4% increase in sales to $130.3 million and a comparable-store sales increase of 5.7%. Net income for the quarter jumped 24% to $4 million, or $0.18 per share. Through the first-half of the year the company has opened nine stores, which is on target with the expectation that it'll open 15 for the year.

The wheels fell off the wagon, however, when it adjusted its full-year comparable-store sales forecast to the downside with a fresh expectation of 5.5%-6.5% growth compared to prior projections of 8.5%-9.5%. Natural Grocers left its sales and EPS forecast unchanged.

Was a downside move expected with this adjustment? Absolutely. Should that downside move have equated to 37%? That I don't exactly agree with.

Natural Grocers has a number of positives working in its favor at the moment. Its stores are relatively small which allows the company to be nimble with its product assortment to ensure that it's carrying what consumers want. Its stores also cater to a growing number of consumers who crave organic and natural foods and supplements with personal health in such great focus.

We should also consider that Natural Grocers' report really wasn't that bad from a costs perspective. Its expenses as a percentage of sales actually dropped 20 basis points with administrative expenses dipping 40 basis points. In other words, it's rising costs are being used effectively in the build-out of its growing network of stores. Combining its reduced same-store sales forecast with new store opening it's quite plausible that revenue growth could exceed 10% on annual basis for three-to-five years by my estimations.

At roughly 28 times forward earnings, Natural Grocers isn't cheap by any conventional means, but I believe its double-digit growth rate could merit the company a more robust valuation than where it's trading now.

These three small-caps may offer world's of potential, but even they could struggle to keep pace with this top stock over the long run
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Sean Williams owns shares of QLogic, but has no material interest in any other 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 has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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.

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