With the end of summer upon us and the kids headed back to school, now could be an excellent time to revisit your portfolio and put some hard-earned cash to work in a great company or two. And even though the market is near all-time highs, and more headlines about a potential market correction are popping up, there are still wonderful companies to buy at reasonable prices.
Case in point: Five of our top investing contributors say that these five stocks, Whirlpool Corporation (NYSE:WHR), National Retail Properties (NYSE:NNN), Under Armour Inc (NYSE:UAA) (NYSE:UA), Hannon Armstrong Sustnbl Infrstr Cap Inc (NYSE:HASI), and Chart Industries, Inc. (NASDAQ:GTLS) are worth a close look right now. Keep reading to learn why each of these companies stand out, and why you should put them on your list if you have plans to invest new money in September.
Sent to spin cycle a month ago, this appliance giant looks enticing
Sean Williams (Whirlpool): Global brand-name appliance giant Whirlpool suffered a bit of a meltdown toward the end of July after the company announced disappointing second-quarter earnings results, and following the announcement that Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) had struck a deal with Sears (NASDAQOTH:SHLDQ) to sell Kenmore appliance on Amazon.com. Whirlpool's soft full-year profit guidance, coupled with Amazon further bullying its way into the appliance space, shook Whirlpool investors, who sent shares down more than 15% in a span of a few weeks. However, I believe this short-term weakness could be a golden buying opportunity.
One of the more intriguing growth opportunities for Whirlpool is Asia, where it has been making acquisitions to establish its footprint in the fast-growing region. It recently acquired a majority stake in China's Hefei Rongshida Sanyo for $552 million to profit from China's burgeoning middle class. The company primarily focuses on microwaves, refrigerators, and washers for Asian markets. Though the appliance industry in China is competitive, cost-cutting initiatives and its recognizable brand names should allow Whirlpool to thrive there.
Whirlpool also continues to dazzle in North America. Second-quarter sales grew by 9%, excluding currency fluctuations. Although raw material costs are on the rise (when aren't they?), the most important phrase in Whirlpool's quarterly press release was that operating profits rose in North America because of "very strong unit volume growth." Even if margins deteriorate temporarily on higher raw material costs, it's imperative to realize that demand for appliances remains strong. High demand lends to pricing power, which keeps the ball in Whirlpool's court. It also doesn't hurt that the U.S. economy spends far more time expanding than contracting, historically, which is important since Whirlpool is a cyclical company.
Long-term investors also get a healthy yield. After paying out $1.72 per share in dividends in 2011, Whirlpool is on track to hand out $4.40 in annual dividends per share in 2017 -- good enough for a market-topping 2.5% yield. Its board also approved a $2 billion share repurchase program, on top of $350 million still left from its previously authorized repurchase program. Based on its current market cap, we're talking about Whirlpool's board authorizing the repurchase of up to 18.6% of its outstanding shares. That could have a notable impact on per-share value.
With a global portfolio of brand-name products and a shareholder-first ethos, Whirlpool looks like a great buy candidate for September.
When retail-sector weakness means opportunity
Matthew Frankel (National Retail Properties): E-commerce headwinds have put pressure on the entire brick-and-mortar retail industry. And it makes sense -- in many cases, retailers are struggling to survive, particularly those who sell discretionary, full-priced products.
On the other hand, not all brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling, and that's why it could be a smart time to invest in a company like National Retail Properties, a real estate investment trust that invests in single-tenant retail properties. Although the stock is down 16% over the past year, there's little reason to worry about the health of its business.
That's because most of National Retail Properties' tenants operate in areas of retail either completely immune to e-commerce, or are at least e-commerce-resistant. Service-based tenants such as quick-service restaurants and gas stations have little to worry about from e-commerce, and discount-oriented retail is actually doing quite well, as these types of businesses often offer deals that online retailers simply can't duplicate.
In addition, National Retail Properties' tenants are on triple-net leases, which means tenants cover variable costs such as property taxes, building insurance, and maintenance expenses. These leases have long initial terms (15-plus years) and typically have annual rent increases (escalators) built in. This creates a steady and predictable stream of income and minimizes vacancy risk.
The proof is in the numbers. National Retail Properties has an occupancy rate above 99%, and its predictable net-lease structure has allowed the company to increase its dividend (4.5% yield) annually for 27 years in a row. With the pressure on the brick-and-mortar retail industry, now could be a good opportunity to add National Retail Properties to your portfolio.
Focus on Under Armour's global story
Steve Symington (Under Armour): When I suggested Under Armour as a top stock to buy in August, I was encouraged by the performance apparel and footwear specialist's recent restructuring, through which it should not only be able to reduce costs and streamline the business, but also more effectively allocate investments toward reaccelerating growth.
But shares have fallen another 5% since then, thanks to worries stemming from terrible results from Foot Locker, Finish Line, and Dick's Sporting Goods, as well as disparaging comments about the brand from Nike-sponsored athlete Kevin Durant. To be fair, it's unsurprising that the market might reason this could mean even more trouble for Under Armour's footwear products, in particular, going forward.
Putting aside the fact that footwear was just under 22% of total sales last quarter, and apart from the chance to buy shares at an even lower price, nothing has fundamentally altered my long-term thesis for owning Under Armour. I continue to believe it can reignite growth as headwinds in North America wane. And international sales -- which represented just 24% of total revenue last quarter -- are still growing quickly, up 57% in Q2.
As it stands, Under Armour stock has fallen 55% over the past year as of this writing, and now trades at just 1.39 times trailing-12-month sales (compared to around 2.61 for Nike and and 2.03 for Adidas). As Under Armour's near-term troubles fade and its long-term global growth story comes into focus, I'm convinced that opportunistic investors who open or add to their positions this month will be pleased they did.
A quietly powerful dividend
Travis Hoium (Hannon Armstrong): Energy market trends are clearly favoring renewable energy and will likely do so for decades to come. But investing in renewable energy stocks has been dangerous because companies are rapidly disrupted as new technology and falling costs topple companies left and right. One great way to play renewable energy is with Hannon Armstrong, which invests in infrastructure assets like land under renewable energy assets and takes senior positions in the capital stack of renewable projects themselves.
Hannon Armstrong has three main asset classes: wind, solar, and efficiency. Each project investment is different, but in wind, the company primarily invests in land that's leased to wind farms or in senior cash flows in the projects themselves. For example, the company invested $144 million in 10 wind projects to obtain preferred equity, which makes money off of power purchase agreement but has significantly less debt than equity holders.
In solar, the company makes similarly opportunistic deals, investing in some projects like commercial solar and investing in deals like a $107 million land purchase that's then leased to solar and wind farms.
Efficiency can actually be the most cost-effective energy asset, and Hannon Armstrong finances upgrades to assets like lighting, HVAC, and Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy assets that are backed by a property lien. These efficiency assets can be a quick payback with very low risk, and Hannon Armstrong is one of the few financiers in the industry.
The cash flows generated from these clean-energy and efficiency assets are then used to pay Hannon Armstrong's dividend of $1.32 on an annualized basis or a 5.7% yield. And with a pipeline of over $2.5 billion in projects with attractive return profiles, there should be room to grow the dividend as investments grow in the future.
A potential hidden value stock
Many investors will see these inflated earnings and cash-flow multiples and go no further. But a little bit of understanding of Chart's business can go a long way toward uncovering a potential opportunity.
Chart's biggest customers are in the energy industry. Over the past three years, oil and gas companies have slashed capital spending, with global oil prices down by more than half on a general oversupply and relatively slow demand growth.
This has put a lot of pressure on Chart, which relies on a significant amount of business from oil and gas companies, particularly for natural gas processing and liquefaction equipment. The company has gone through several rounds of restructuring, consolidating facilities and closing others, and reducing its workforce to lower costs. This has paid off with lower cash expenses, helping the company ride out the worst of the downturn and report a profit last quarter.
But management isn't just cutting back. Chart has also made several acquisitions, both in North America and in Europe, which help position the company in growth markets, and less cyclical aftermarket services. It also means Chart has greater earnings power today, which isn't reflected in trailing valuation multiples. Add in a 15% drop in Chart's price over the past few months, and this seemingly expensive stock is on my list of potential bargains right now.