The bull market continues to rage on. That's great news for those of us who are already heavily invested, but it's rotten news for value investors who are looking for a great deal right now.
Thankfully, there are always bargains to be found if you are willing to turn over enough rocks. Want proof? We asked a team of investors to each share a top stock they feel is a great deal right now. Here's why they picked General Electric (GE 0.01%), Buckeye Partners (BPL), and Pegasystems (PEGA -1.00%).
You could show this fallen angel some love
Neha Chamaria (General Electric): Whether you own shares of General Electric or not, you probably know the industrial stalwart's sad 2017 story. The market gave up on the stock after management slashed its earnings target and cut its dividend by 50% under the leadership of John Flannery, who took over from the much-hated ex-CEO Jeff Immelt. By the end of 2017, GE shares had shed a whopping 45% of their value, and they are now trading at valuations that offer long-term investors an opportunity.
As challenging as the road ahead might seem for GE, I'm optimistic that the company will be able to turn its fortunes around, and 2018 should be the start. To begin with, GE plans to divest assets worth $20 billion in the next couple of years as part of its turnaround strategy, which should give birth to a leaner company that's focused on the more profitable businesses such as aviation and healthcare. To reduce exposure to commodities, GE will also likely sell its oil and gas business.
Second, GE intends to strengthen its cash position by focusing on organic growth and maintaining sustainable dividends. A dividend cut may have pinched investors, but it was a necessary evil as GE was burning a lot of cash. With the company now aiming for a more balanced capital allocation that includes prioritizing organic investments, a reasonable dividend payout, and pension funding, investors in GE should be better off in the long run.
Let's get this straight: GE won't turn around overnight, and 2018 could still be a low-profit year for the company. Still, value investors who buy the stock now and hold on to it for the long term shouldn't be disappointed.
Time is running out
Reuben Gregg Brewer (Buckeye Partners, L.P.): The shares of midstream oil and natural gas partnership Buckeye Partners have been rising along with the midstream sector over the last few weeks. But they are still off around 15% over the past year and some 30% below their three- and five-year highs.
The partnership's yield, at around 9%, is roughly 4 times that of the broader market, compared to a historical relative dividend yield closer to 3 times over the past decade. Buckeye's price to tangible book value, meanwhile, has fallen about 30% over the past year, while industry bellwether Enterprise Products Partners L.P.'s (EPD) price to tangible book value is, essentially, unchanged over the same span. In other words, despite the price gains over the past month, it still looks relatively cheap.
Part of the reason for the relatively low price is that a major acquisition has pushed Buckeye's distribution coverage below 1. That's not desirable, but it isn't an unusual event for this partnership as it invests for the future. If history is any guide, as the new assets start to bear fruit, distribution coverage will improve.
That big deal, meanwhile, has materially expanded Buckeye's international reach. This is an interesting twist in the partnership space, which is heavily focused on the domestic market. But if you wait too long, you might miss the opportunity to grab a 9% yield backed by a globally diversified partnership that has increased its distribution for 22 consecutive years.
To the cloud
Brian Feroldi (Pegasystems): Companies that sell business software might not be all that exciting to own, but they sure can be profitable investments own over the long term.
One great example is Pegasystems. This company sells software that helps businesses with mission-critical functions like customer service, marketing, sales automation, and more. This isn't a sexy business, but it tends to be very stable and highly profitable. A key reason for this is that once a company chooses Pegasystems as its vendor, it becomes very costly -- in terms of time and training -- to switch to another provider. This fact provides Pegasystems with pricing power and lots of cross-selling opportunities. These favorable business attributes have allowed Pegasystems' stock to crush the return of the S&P 500 over the last 1, 3, 5, and 10 years.
Like many software companies, Pegasystems is in the process of transitioning away from a perpetual license business model to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model platform. That's great news for investors because SaaS revenue tends to be highly predictable and can be more profitable in the long run. However, the SaaS business model pulls in much less revenue up front, which can wreak havoc on a company's financial statements in the short term.
Investors saw this dynamic in action last quarter. Pegasystems' top line actually declined year over year, and its net income evaporated. Wall Street was so unimpressed with the results that shares have pulled back more than 25% from their recent high.
However, I don't think the year-over-year declines are as troubling as you might otherwise assume. Why? Because those declines mean the transition to the cloud is happening at a faster rate than management had previously anticipated. That's a positive sign for the business in the long run.
Pegasystems is a proven winner in the middle of a favorable business model shift. While this process can be slow and painful in the short run, I think Pegasystems' will come out the other side stronger than ever. That's why I believe this is a great stock for value investors to check out right now.