When most people look for value stocks, they're trying to find relatively unexciting, stable businesses that happen to trade at a discount relative to the rest of the market based on traditional valuation metrics. That's fair enough, as many value stocks fit in quite well with this typically conservative train of thought.
But a value stock can be any business that trades at a discount to what it's really worth, and sometimes you need to think outside the box to find truly compelling buys. So we asked three top Motley Fool investors to each pick a value stock that they believe bold investors might appreciate. Read on to learn why they chose Splunk (NASDAQ:SPLK), Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG), and Kinder Morgan (NYSE:KMI).
High-tech value in disguise
Steve Symington (Splunk): With shares of Splunk trading at a whopping 77 times this year's expected earnings, the operational intelligence software company certainly doesn't look like a "value stock" -- at least in the sense that most people think of the term. But investors need to keep in mind that Splunk purposefully forsakes bottom-line profitability, choosing to instead invest for revenue growth and taking market share in these early stages of its long-term story.
It seems an understatement to say that its efforts to that end are succeeding. Splunk's most recent report in late May marked its 10th straight quarter of exceeding its financial guidance; revenue and billings each climbed 30% year over year, and the company added 500 new enterprise customers, bringing its customer base to over 13,000. All told, 85 members of the Fortune 100 already rely on Splunk's cutting-edge operational intelligence platform to help them put their growing piles of unstructured machine data to use.
But Splunk is only just getting started. Earlier this year, Splunk increased its estimated total addressable market by $10 billion to $55 billion, noting that figure represents a possible customer base of 300,000 to 400,000. In the meantime, Splunk maintains a goal of increasing revenue to $2 billion to 2020, up from its latest guidance for 2017 revenue of just under $1.2 billion.
So, if you're willing to buy and hold Splunk as its long-term growth story plays out, I think you'll look back and realize it was a value stock in disguise all along.
Latest scare could be a buying opportunity
Jason Hall (Chipotle Mexican Grill): Just when it seemed the fast-casual Mexican eatery had really put the food-borne illness issues of 2015 in the rearview mirror, Chipotle has another scare on its hands after more than a dozen customers reportedly caught the stomach bug norovirus at a Virginia location. Needless to say, Chipotle's stock tanked on the news and now trades near its lowest price in the past year; shares are down 28% in two months.
While there's certainly some risk in doing so, bold investors could take this as an opportunity to buy shares of the company at what could be a bargain price. It may sound crazy since Chipotle trades for more than 106 times its trailing-12-month earnings, but hear me out.
At its peak in 2015 -- before the E. coli food scare and unrelated norovirus outbreak soon after decimated sales -- Chipotle delivered $16.76 in earnings per share. At the recent $344 share price, Chipotle trades for 20.5 times this peak earnings. Since, the company has opened over 400 locations, 20% growth that should give the company far greater earnings potential. Furthermore, management intends to continue growing the store base around 10% annually before factoring in any growth potential for Tasty Made or Pizzeria Locale.
Bottom line: There's risk that this latest scare will drive customers away again, causing the company to lose much of the ground that it's made up. But if you're willing to stomach that risk, today's price could prove to be a real value in another couple of years.
The pipeline giant whose future looks brighter than its recent past
Chuck Saletta (Kinder Morgan): Shares in pipeline giant Kinder Morgan (NYSE:KMI) have had a rough time since the company slashed its dividend in late 2015 to shore up its balance sheet and internally fund much of its expansion. Before the cut, its shares traded as high as the mid-40s, but since then, they've been languishing at around half that value or less.
Still, for bold investors able to look past that prior cut and toward the company's future, today's Kinder Morgan looks like a reasonable value for a business that's even stronger than it was before. The company made very smart financial choices with the cash it freed up by cutting its dividend, leaving it with far greater flexibility and a firmer foundation than it had before.
Its debt coverage is stronger, leading Moody's to upgrade its outlook to stable from negative. It's funding about $3 billion of its growth this year from the cash flow it freed up, which will ultimately deliver more cash to the company and its owners, unencumbered by debt service payments on it. And as importantly for shareholders who were burned by the late 2015 dividend cut, the company hopes to be able to announce the ability to resume increasing its dividend later this year.
It's a bold choice to look for value in a company whose most recent dividend move was to slash its payout. In Kinder Morgan's case, the excellent moves the company has made since that cut to shore up its balance sheet and fund its expansion from internal sources may very well justify that choice.