With the Dow Jones Industrial Average soaring past the 20,000 mark, there isn't a lot of value to be found in today's market. However, even during times of market euphoria, there are still a handful of stocks on the market trading at dirt-cheap valuations.
Let's take a closer look at three ridiculously cheap stocks that also pay dividends -- Pitney Bowes (NYSE:PBI), Western Union (NYSE:WU), and AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV) -- to see if any could be worth buying today.
A company in transition
Once upon a time, Pitney Bowes was a red-hot growth stock. The company held a dominant market position in the business mailing industry, which helped drive decades of revenue and profit growth.
New technologies, however, such as the fax machine, emails, and text messages have slowly eroded the demand for Pitney Bowes' products. When adding in competitive pressures from companies such as Stamps.com, it's easy to understand why the company's top and bottom lines have been steadily declining for years. In turn, long-term shareholders have been dealt a lot of pain.
But now Pitney-Bowes' management team believes it has a realistic plan to regain the company's former glory. The company has been investing heavily in building out its software offerings in an effort to better compete in the digital age. Given the company's size and relationships, management is hopeful that businesses will sign up and that the company will soon return to growth mode.
Changing business models is never easy, so it's understandable that Wall Street is skeptical. As a result, the company's shares are currently trading for just 7 times forward earnings, and its dividend yield has soared to 5.6%. However, given the company's history of failing revenue and profit, I have a hard time feeling bullish about this stock.
An eroding competitive advantage
If you've ever sent money to a friend or family member over a long distance, there's a good chance you dealt with Western Union. This century-old business had an enormous worldwide network of money-transfer locations that made it the go-to place for millions of consumers for decades. With immigration on the rise and the world becoming increasingly more connected, Western Union appeared to be well positioned for growth.
Still, the thesis for owning Western Union's stock hasn't panned out. While demand for money-transfer services continues to rise, consumers are increasingly turning to low-cost internet providers, such as PayPal's Xoom, in lieu of visiting a Western Union. To retain its market share, Western Union has been forced to give in on pricing. That necessity has caused the company's net income to plunge at a far faster rate than revenue.
The company's dwindling competitive position has caused market watchers to turn quite bearish on the stock. Shares are currently trading for only 11 times forward earnings, which is quite cheap for a company that's debt free, cranking out cash flow, and paying a meaty 3.6% dividend.
Still, it's hard to see how the company can get its bottom line moving in the right direction again, given the increasingly competitive landscape. This stock could be a value trap and probably one to avoid.
Revenue concentration issues
Standing in stark contrast to Pitney Bowes and Western Union, pharma giant AbbVie hasn't seen its revenue and profit stagnate over the past few years. In fact, AbbVie's revenue and earnings have both been growing at double-digit rates for years. Better yet, AbbVie's management team recently stuck its neck out and projected that the double-digit growth rates would continue annually between now and 2020. Believe it or not, Wall Street agrees with this forecast and is predicting earnings growth of more than 14% annually over the next five years.
So why is AbbVie trading for less than 10 times forward earnings? While I'm sure the political rhetoric surrounding drug prices and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act is weighing on the stock, I think the markets are far more concerned about the long-term future of AbbVie's best-selling drug, Humira.
To call Humira important to AbbVie's future would be a huge understatement. While AbbVie generated more than $25 billion in global sales last year, a full $16 billion of that amount -- or nearly two-thirds of the total -- was derived from Humira. That means a great deal of AbbVie's value is directly tied to the future success of this anti-inflammatory drug, so if Humira were to stumble, so, too, would AbbVie's stock.
Many other big pharma stocks want a part of that Humira revenue, which is why there are a few biosimilar drug candidates in development. While AbbVie has so far been able to fend off the potential competition by using the legal system, that situation can't go on forever.
AbbVie knows that to be the case, why is why it's investing in other drugs, including Imbruvica, Ceron, and Venclexta, in an effort to help diversify the company's revenue stream. However, that diversification will probably take a long time, given Humira's dominance, so it's understandable why this fast-growing stock is trading so cheaply.
Are any worth buying?
While all three stocks offer investors reasons to be cautious, I can't help feeling that only AbbVie might be worth buying today. Humira looks protected for the next few years, allowing the company to probably remain in growth mode. Add in a 4% dividend yield and a cheap valuation, and it's hard to blame value investors for being attracted to this stock.