The only thing that is better than buying the stock of a great company is buying a stock of a great company at a low price. While there aren't a whole lot of companies out there selling at decent discounted prices these days -- the market is hitting all-time highs, after all -- there's still a decent handful of stocks that investors should consider if they want to buy a company on the cheap.
So we asked several of our contributors to each highlight a stock they see as currently trading for a 'cheap' price. They came up with seven: Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), Brookfield Property Partners (NASDAQ:BPY), USG Corp. (NYSE: USG), The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), American Express (NYSE:AXP), Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ), and Seadrill Limited (NYSE:SDRL). Here's a quick look at why each company is selling so cheap, and whether that means it's time to buy or not.
Todd Campbell (Pfizer, Inc.): Donald Trump's plans to dismantle Obamacare and lower the corporate tax rate to 15% could make Pfizer a big winner now that Trump's become the president-elect.
A full repeal of Obamacare would eliminate the branded prescription-drug fee that's assessed proportionally to drugmakers based on their sales to government programs. Pfizer paid $251 million to the government because of that fee last year alone.
A 15% business tax rate would give Pfizer's bottom line an even bigger boost. Pfizer's tax bill totaled $1.99 billion in 2015, which works out to an effective tax rate of 22.2%. If the company's earnings had been taxed at 15%, then Pfizer's tax bill would have been $1.34 billion, or $645 million lower.
The combined benefit of these two changes is $896 million, and if we multiply that by Pfizer's current forward price-to-earnings ratio of 12.37, then these savings would arguably be worth $11 billion to investors. However, that may undervalue these benefits given that Pfizer's forward P/E was 14.5 in 2014. If we use that ratio, then the value of these savings would increase to $13 billion.
Pfizer's market cap has climbed about $11 billion since Trump's victory, so some of this benefit is already priced in. However, I believe that an annual P/E of 15 is fair given Pfizer's cost-cutting, sales growth, and an improving regulatory environment. Based on industry watchers' $2.61 earnings-per-share estimate for next year, a P/E of 15 suggests Pfizer's stock may have 21% more upside.
Admittedly, there's no telling whether Trump can convince Republicans in Congress to support these proposals, or what the actual P/E ratio will end up being. Nevertheless, Pfizer's tailwinds are strong enough to make me think that this is one cheap stock that's worth betting on.
Prime real estate for 70 cents on the dollar
Matt DiLallo (Brookfield Property Partners): Global real estate company Brookfield Property Partners reported this past quarter that the equity value of its holdings stood at $31 per unit. That is an increase of $1 per unit from the prior year, due to rising net income from its portfolio of premier office, retail, and multifamily properties. However, despite strong support for that valuation, the company's units are only selling for about $21 per unit. That disconnect suggests that investors can buy a piece of Brookfield's real estate empire for just seventy cents on the dollar.
Because there is such a vast disconnect between the underlying value of its portfolio and the market value of its units, Brookfield is selling selective assets within its core portfolio. For example, during the third quarter, the company sold one of its core office properties in Sydney, Australia for a 6% premium to its carrying value. Meanwhile, it recently signed a contract to sell an office property in London right at its carrying value, suggesting that the Brexit vote did not impact property values in the city as expected. The company also secured similar value-affirming deals in its retail and multifamily portfolios.
Brookfield intends to continue to sell selective assets, and use that cash to either buy other assets at discounted prices or repurchase more of its discounted units. In fact, it has repurchased more than 1.1 million units so far this year. At some point, the market should catch on and realize that it has completely mispriced Brookfield Property Partners. However, until that time, investors have a chance to buy units of this exceptionally well-run real estate giant at a ridiculously cheap price.
This Warren Buffett stock could win big under Trump's presidency
Neha Chamaria (USG Corporation): With Donald Trump affirming his plans to rebuild America's infrastructure in his victory speech, you simply can't ignore infrastructure stocks anymore. While many companies stand to gain, building materials manufacturer USG Corporation has caught my attention for three reasons: products, growth plans, and valuation.
USG's forte is gypsum, which is primarily used for construction, rebuilding, and renovation. A recent report from Smithers Apex projects the gypsum market to grow at an annual compounded rate of 9.9% through 2026. As the owner of the hugely popular Sheetrock brand of wallboard, USG is poised to be a major beneficiary of any uptick in construction and repairing activity. USG's innovative leadership, evident in its patented products like UltraLight panels, further gives it an edge over peers. What's more, the company is also among the leading manufacturers of cement and roof-board products (you might have heard of its Durock and Securock brands).
Meanwhile, USG's focus on strengthening its balance sheet is commendable. Just last month, USG sold its L&W Supply distribution business for $670 million in cash. While that'll help USG pare down debt, disposing of a low-margin segment should also boost profitability and free up resources for more productive uses. I consider the L&W sale to be a big positive for USG going forward.
Considering the growth catalysts, I think USG stock is trading ridiculously cheap today, at 4 times trailing earnings and a PEG (price/earnings to growth) ratio of just 0.7. At this price, as infrastructure spending in the U.S. picks up, USG looks like a potential long-term winner.
And, as the icing on the cake, USG is also part of Warren Buffett's portfolio. Hard to argue with the Oracle of Omaha.
The House of Mouse (and so much more)
Steve Symington (The Walt Disney Company): Disney's latest quarterly report wasn't perfect, as it was punctuated by continued pressure on its core media networks segment, where operating income fell 8% year over year, to $1.7 billion. For that, Disney was candid in blaming decreases at ESPN and its namesake Disney Channels, which effectively caused Disney shares to decline in the immediate aftermath of the report.
But shares actually rose as the market digested positive comments from Disney management on the business's direction going forward, including next year's planned opening of Avatar Land at Walt Disney World and a full year of results from Shanghai Disney Resort. The company has also announced a blockbuster slate of movies for fiscal 2018 that includes four new Marvel films, three animated movies from Pixar and Disney Animation, and two Star Wars movies including Episode VIII. And of course, the success of these movies will inevitably trickle down to Disney's consumer products segment.
What's more, Disney CEO Robert Iger reminded investors that ESPN has made great strides in expanding its distribution as it adapts to today's changing media landscape, including new over-the-top distribution deals with Sony, Sling TV, Hulu, and AT&T's DIRECTV Now service.
"We believe these new services will ultimately move more Millennials into the pay-TV universe," Iger explained, "and we're currently in negotiations with other distributors to further expand our presence on these new platforms."
So with shares of Disney still down around 15% over the past year, and trading at a reasonable 14.6 times next year's expected earnings, I think patient investors would be wise to buy Disney stock before the results of these growth drivers become evident.
Up 38% but still a bargain
Jason Hall (American Express): Shares of American Express have surged back strongly from their lows in February:
Yet even after moving up so much, American Express is still pretty cheap:
As you can see in the chart above, American Express' shares are still trading at a pretty steep discount to its historical price-to-earnings multiple over the past decade. But it's not just trading at a discount to its own valuation, but also the average P/E ratio of both the Dow Jones Industrials (of which it is a constituent) and the S&P 500. The Dow currently trades at an average P/E of 20.6 on a trailing 12-month basis, and 17.7 on a one-year forward basis, while the S&P 500 average is 24 trailing and 18 forward.
Sure, you could argue that the market is "expensive" today based on historical earnings multiples, but that doesn't alter the fact that American Express is still on sale today. And it's also still a wonderful and very profitable business.
A cheap, high-yielding stock that will benefit from lower regulation
Jamal Carnette, CFA (Verizon): Verizon is currently among the cheapest stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Shares of the telecommunications firm trade hands at a valuation of 13.5 times earnings, versus the DJIA's average of 21 times. Additionally, Verizon's current yield of 4.9% is nearly double the Dow Jones Industrial Average of 2.5%.
Analysts have pegged Verizon to provide annualized earnings growth of only 1.7% over the next five years, owing to pricing pressures in its core wireless business and a trend toward cord-cutting hurting the company's FiOS product. Still, Verizon's been able to continue growing both businesses throughout these challenging market conditions, and should continue to do so going forward. The market is pricing in an era of low growth for Big Red; this may be an incorrect assumption in light of 2016's election results.
The conventional wisdom for long-term investing is to ignore elections, but this time appears truly different for highly regulated industries like telecommunications and subscription television. Rarely have the differences between the two parties been so stark and the pendulum swung so far in one side's direction. Verizon investors should benefit from a "lighter-touch" Federal Communications Commission, a less muscular (or even defunded) Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and a pro-business Federal Trade Commission.
Verizon's legislative wish list -- repealing net neutrality, less policing of consumer-unfriendly corporate actions, and a more hospitable merger environment -- should provide a tailwind to its bottom line. The combination of high yield, favorable regulatory landscape, and cheap valuation makes Verizon a stock to put on your shopping list.
Can't get much cheaper right now than offshore-rig stocks
Tyler Crowe (Seadrill Limited): Some of the cheapest stocks out there today can be found in the energy sector, especially offshore rig stocks. The biggest fear for these companies is that oil prices will stay low for a long time, because the costs for drilling shale have declined so much that many shale basins in the U.S. are profitable in the $50-$55 per barrel range. Also, shale wells can be brought online so quickly that they are more responsive to oil prices and can keep them from rising quickly. This means that many producers are going to forgo developing deepwater reservoirs for a while, and that means rig owners are flat out of work.
While almost all rig companies are trading at dirt-cheap prices, the one that stands out as the cheapest by far is Seadrill Limited. Today, the company's stock trades at an incredibly low 0.11 times tangible book value. The reason shares are trading so low is that the company has a mountainous debt load, some cash payments due for new rigs under construction, and few prospects for new work for its existing fleet. This is clearly a binary stock: Either the company will fold under the weight of its debt, or an uptick in the rig market will send the stock soaring.