Attempting to time the market is a fool's errand, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to find great companies that sell at a discount compared to their underlying long-term value. To borrow some words from the father of value investing, Ben Graham, "In the short run, the market is a voting machine, but in the long run, it is a weighing machine."
With the wisdom of that quote in mind, we asked three Motley Fool contributors to identify stocks that might be smart value plays today. Read on to learn why Brookfield Renewable Partners (BEP -0.86%), Discover Financial Services (DFS 0.95%), and Cisco Systems (CSCO 0.25%) made the list.
A dirt-cheap renewable-energy stock
Matt DiLallo (Brookfield Renewable Partners): Hydropower and wind generator Brookfield Renewable Partners is the total package for investors. It's a great stock for income lovers because at current market prices it yields a generous 6.2%. That's well above the average yield of its peers, which is closer to 4% these days. Furthermore, the company expects to grow that payout 5% to 9% per year, which puts it on pace to deliver total annual returns in the 12% to 15% range. That makes it a pretty compelling option for growth investors. However, what really puts this stock over the top is the fact that investors can buy that growing income stream for a pretty compelling value these days.
As the following slide shows, the company currently trades at a discount to the value of its assets when compared to where other hydro and wind peers trade in the marketplace:
Because of that, investors can buy Brookfield Renewable Partners for a 15% to 40% discount. However, as that slide also points out, this valuation doesn't give the company any credit for its wind and hydro development pipeline. It's a pipeline that it anticipates will add an incremental $45 million to $50 million in annual cash flow as these assets start generating power over the next few years. In the company's estimation, these developments are currently worth $2 to $3 per unit because that's the value it could get for those projects if it were to sell them to other investors.
Add it all up and Brookfield Renewable Partners has everything an investor could want in a long-term holding. Not only does it pay an attractive dividend that it expects to grow at a healthy clip over the next several years, but investors can buy that growing income stream for a bargain price.
Charge ahead with this financial stock
Dan Caplinger (Discover Financial Services): The credit card industry has done extremely well recently, as more businesses and consumers across the globe turn away from cash transactions toward more advanced payment methods. Discover Financial isn't the largest such network, but it has a place among the elite in the industry, and unlike its peers, its stock currently has an attractive valuation of just 10 times its trailing earnings over the past 12 months.
What many people don't know is that Discover goes beyond its namesake credit card. The company has also worked to boost its student loan and personal loan volume, and those efforts have produced double-digit percentage growth, accelerating Discover's growth rate beyond what the credit card portfolio can provide. Returns on equity have also been solid, pointing to the idea that Discover should be able to stand up to its bigger rivals and still hold its own.
Discover has done a number of shareholder-friendly actions, including boosting its dividend consistently over time as well as making extensive repurchases of stock. Some also believe that Discover could make a good acquisition candidate, especially if a major U.S. bank decides that having a well-known payment network under its corporate umbrella could bolster profits. As long as a strong U.S. economy keeps spending levels high, Discover Financial is in a good position to keep performing well.
Own the network
Keith Noonan (Cisco Systems): Networking leader Cisco is facing lagging sales for its routing and switching hardware, but its inexpensive valuation and strong dividend component point to an opportunity for long-term investors. The company recently delivered disappointing third-quarter sales and guidance for the current quarter, and, following resulting sell-offs, its stock now trades at just 12 times forward earnings estimates. That's an earnings multiple that compares quite favorably with the S&P 500's forward P/E of 18 and the telecommunications hardware industry average of roughly 26.
As a result of challenges facing its legacy hardware business, Cisco has been investing to build its Internet of Things, cloud, security, and collaboration businesses and reorient itself to derive more revenue from subscriptions rather than one-off sales. The company's move to a more software-focused business model means that significant new revenue streams are being deferred, which could result in additional short-term performance slumps, but shareholders have the benefit of stacking dividend payments as the transition takes place. With a 3.7% yield and the cost of paying its dividend representing roughly 47% of last year's $12.42 billion in free cash flow, the stock looks like a strong income play that comes with the potential for continued payout increases.
Looking at another valuation metric, Cisco has an enterprise-value-to-free-cash-flow ratio of roughly 11, meaning that its trailing cash generation represents roughly 9% of its enterprise value and indicating that shares are a good deal at current prices.