Yes, there are still stocks out there on sale. There certainly aren't as many out there any more as Wall Street seems to be quite optimistic about the current state of the economy and what could happen over the next several years. To find those stocks worthy of your investment dollars that are on sale, though, you have to do some digging.
Two companies that really stand out as solid businesses that also sell at a decent price today are biotech giant Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) and coal miner Alliance Holdings GP (NASDAQ:AHGP). Here's a quick breakdown of why the market is assigning modest valuations to these two stocks and why they are likely strong candidates to buy today.
Too much focus on the present and not enough focus on the future?
When looking at buying stocks for the long term, you have to give weight to both the company's current ability to generate profits and what kind of future the company has ahead of it. When it comes to pharmaceutical and biotech companies, current drug sales are always going to eventually decline as they either fall off patent or competitors produce alternatives to put pressure on pricing.
To offset this, companies need to have a way of restocking the shelves with new drugs or treatments. This cycle can wax and wane, though, because the development of new drugs and treatments can be a hit or miss business.
This is where we find Gilead Sciences right now. The company's flagship treatments for Hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV have gained considerable market share, but the markets have become rather saturated. In fact, Gilead Sciences CEO John Milligan said during its last earnings conference call that it will no longer pursue new treatments for HCV aside from the current late stage treatment tests that use a combination of existing drugs. Management also noted that its new HIV treatment -- Genvoya -- has been cannibalizing some of its older treatments. According to Milligan, only "10% of Genvoya switches are incremental to the Gilead HIV franchise."
Against this backdrop, you can kind of see why shares have declined and why the stock is trading for a modest 7 times earnings. In fact, if you back out the $31 billion in cash and investments on the books from its market cap, Gilead's stock is trading at a measly 4.7 times earnings. Basically, investors see its two powerhouse revenue generating treatments losing steam.
That thesis, though, doesn't give a lot of weight to its future potential. As it stands, Gilead has about 30 new treatments in its pipeline. A good portion of which are looking to target new, lucrative markets like treating nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Management has also said that it wants to direct more and more of its capital toward oncology and cancer treatments, either through its current pipeline of treatments or by deploying that mountain of cash on which it sits for an acquisition.
At the price at which Gilead's stock trades today, the expectations bar is set very, very low. It may only take a couple hits among its pipeline of treatments to see this company's stock rise again. That makes Gildead's stock look like a pretty good bargain today.
There's quite a bit left on this cigar butt
It's a hard, hard case to make that coal is going to rebound in any meaningful way over the next several years. The competition from both natural gas and alternative energy sources have made pricing incredibly fierce, and most utilities -- the ones that are making the investment decisions on new power generating facilities -- are saying they have no plans for new coal powered facilities in the future.
This isn't the most compelling backdrop for companies in the coal industry, but the story is a little more nuanced than that. Yes, coal is going into decline, but it matters where that coal comes from. One particular coal producing region -- the Illinois Basin -- is actually expected to see production gains while the others decline significantly over the next several years.
This is critical in understanding Alliance Holdings and its subsidiary partnership Alliance Resources Partners (NASDAQ:ARLP). A large portion of the coal it produces comes from the Illinois Basin region. So unlike others that are going to be consistently facing demand declines, Alliance will likely have consistent demand at a minimum and potentially an opportunity to gain market share as its competitors try to shutter mines.
Alliance is also coming from a position from strength because unlike so many other major U.S. coal miners that loaded up on debt a few years ago for expensive acquisitions, it kept its head down and focused on financial discipline and efficient operations. That's how the company was able to stave off production cuts for years and was able to maintain strong payouts to shareholders. It's also telling that the company decided to cut its payout before it was in financial distress.
I can't say with any confidence that Alliance is a buy and hold forever kind of stock. The headwinds for coal are simply too great. However, it still has a decently long runway of consistent coal demand and a potential to grab market share from its financially distressed peers to pay investors with its rather generous distribution that yields 7.25% today. At an enterprise value to EBITDA ratio of just 4.3 times and a modest PE ratio of 11.1 times. Alliance's shares look to be selling at a decent discount.