If there's one thing smart investors know, it's that you can often find value in out-of-favor places. And that's certainly the case with traditional bricks and mortar retail and the offshore oil drilling sector. Traditional retail is taking a beating as more and more consumer spending skips the mall and goes online, while offshore oil continues to suffer from big spending cuts with oil prices back under $50 per barrel. But sometimes there's value in places that look expensive, too, including a cash-cow casino operator with a major presence in Asia.
Looking for smart value investments? Our contributors say National Retail Properties, Inc. (NYSE:NNN), Las Vegas Sands Corp. (NYSE:LVS), and Noble Corporation Ordinary Shares (UK) (NYSE:NE) fit that bill. If you're looking for value where the market may be overlooking it, keep reading to learn what it is that sets these three stocks apart from the crowd.
Don't get scared out of this retail stock
Brian Feroldi (National Retail Properties): From bankruptcies to store closures, the news out of the retail industry has been anything but positive lately. In response, investors have sold off lots of companies that have anything to do with the sector, including National Retail Properties. I think that's affording savvy investors a great opportunity to buy into this high-quality REIT.
National Retail Properties is focused exclusively on renting its free-standing properties to retailers. That might sound like a risky strategy, but National protects itself in a few different ways.
First, National rents the majority of its properties to retailers that aren't prone to e-commerce competition -- think convenience stores, gas stations, car washes, restaurants, fitness centers, and the like. Second, the company focuses on triple-net lease agreements. That means the retailer is responsible for all variable costs -- think wear and tear, property taxes, utilities, and insurance. National simply sits back and cashes the rent check. Finally, the company requires its tenants to sign long-term leases, which typically stretch 15 to 20 years.
When combined, these factors keep National's occupancy rates extremely high, even during periods of stress. Currently, the figure tops 99%, but even in 2009 it never dipped below 96%. Perhaps now you'll understand how this company has been able to increase its dividend payment for more than 27 years in a row.
Yet despite its stable history and current dividend yield of 4.8%, National's stock has declined by more than 11% since the start of the year. That makes this a great value stock for income investors to get to know.
Looking to Asia for a surprise value
Travis Hoium (Las Vegas Sands): Traditionally, the gambling industry wasn't a place for value investors to search for stocks. Gambling companies have long been highly leveraged, popularizing the term "junk bonds" all on their own, and while these companies could have high-growth stocks, they could also be at risk of going out of business. But in 2017, Las Vegas Sands has built a gambling company that's so big and so profitable that it's a value stock even the most conservative investor could look at.
The first thing to understand is what a strong position Las Vegas Sands is in geographically. It has one of only two gambling concessions in Singapore and one of six in Macau. These are extremely profitable regions to be operating casinos in and, despite their ups and downs recently, will drive earnings long-term.
The following chart shows the level of cash the company's casinos are generating (approximated by EBITDA), how much debt there is on the balance sheet, and what's being paid in the form of a dividend. EBITDA is near $4 billion annually, and net debt is less than 2 times that level, very low leverage for a gambling company:
What value investors should really love about Las Vegas Sands is the company's 4.6% dividend yield. There's room to grow the dividend from existing cash flow, particularly if Macau's growth continues, and with a manageable debt load, the company doesn't have to worry too much about leverage as a risk factor.
Gambling stocks may not be the natural pick for value investors, but Las Vegas Sands' cash flow, low debt, and dividend make this a value stock worth taking a look at.
This offshore driller is priced for the scrap heap, but it shouldn't be
Jason Hall (Noble Corp.): First things first: Offshore drilling isn't going to get much better over the next few months, as 2017 is on track to be the worst year of the downturn so far. For that reason, it makes sense that offshore drilling stocks would remain beaten-down. For instance, Noble Corp.'s trailing-12-month revenue is down nearly 40% from its peak, when oil prices were much higher.
Furthermore, it's going to take some time before money starts flowing back to offshore projects. While oil has rebounded sharply from last year's bottom, there's still a global oversupply that's keeping prices from fully recovering. But there are signs of life, with a number of long-term drilling contracts having been awarded so far this year -- though it must be noted that essentially all of the new work won't begin until 2018. Yet the market is still staying far away from offshore drilling stocks.
But smart investors willing to invest before the recovery really starts could do incredibly well to buy Noble Corp. now. Trading for a ridiculously cheap 16% of tangible book value, this stock has a lot of potential upside. Yes, some of Noble Corp.'s vessels won't be of much economic value when their current contracts end and will probably be scrapped, but they're certainly not 85% of Noble's book value. And with a manageable debt load and an experienced management team holding the rudder and keeping it cash-flow positive through the downturn, Noble Corp. should be one of the winners when the offshore market returns to growth.