With the end of May quickly approaching and the summer driving season set to kick off with the Memorial Day holiday weekend, plenty of investors are thinking about higher oil and gasoline prices. But as they're wont to do, three Motley Fool investors surprised us when we asked for three energy stocks worth considering now and they didn't pick a single one from the crude oil or gasoline business.
Is this a case of taking advantage of the market's tendency to look one way while the real opportunity is somewhere else? Maybe so. After all, organic waste products recycler Darling Ingredients Inc. (NYSE:DAR), upstart natural gas business Tellurian Inc. (NASDAQ:TELL), and global wind turbine giant Vestas Wind Systems ADR (NASDAQOTH:VWDRY) have all seen their stock prices fall so far this year, but their long-term prospects look quite good.
But these are three very different businesses with different risk profiles that must be considered. Here's why these real-world investors think they're worth buying now and whether they belong in your portfolio.
Going green (in a surprising way)
John Bromels (Darling Ingredients): With Brent crude prices now nearing $80 per barrel, things are looking good for the oil industry. So good, in fact, that bargains have become increasingly hard to find. That's why I'm making the unconventional choice of fat renderer -- and restaurant grease trap recycler -- Darling Ingredients.
You might want to skip this paragraph if you've just eaten. Because the "ingredients" in the company's name are animal by-products. Yep, if it's something disgusting that comes from a dead animal -- or sometimes even a live one -- Darling probably processes it into something useful, like components of animal feed, soap, fertilizer, gelatin, sausage, and even fuel.
That's right: Through its Diamond Green Diesel joint venture with Valero, Darling recycles animal fats and used cooking oil into biodiesel fuel. And it's about to start pumping out a lot more of it, thanks to a planned 275-million-gallon expansion to its processing facilities, which is slated to wrap in August 2018 and increase production by 70% once it's fully on line. Darling is also benefiting from the reinstatement of the blenders' tax credit that helps biodiesel producers. The overall market for biofuels may also benefit from high petroleum prices as a potentially cheaper -- not to mention greener -- alternative.
The best part for investors looking to buy in now is that many of Darling's valuation metrics like P/E ratio and EV to EBITDA are now lower than those of most independent oil producers after having been higher for many years. It's a great opportunity to buy into a niche renewable energy market at an attractive price.
A second chance at an emerging LNG investment
Tyler Crowe (Tellurian): Let me start by saying that I'm a shareholder in Tellurian, and it's entirely possible that this will be the investing hill that I die on. That said, I think Tellurian has the potential to generate massive shareholder returns over the next several years for those who are patient and willing to wait for a payoff and risk the losses.
Stop me if you think you've heard this story before. Charif Souki and his team want to develop an LNG export terminal in the U.S. Gulf Coast, but need to raise lots of capital to get the project off the ground. A decade ago, that was the story of Cheniere Energy, which has arguably exceeded everyone's expectations as it brings its facilities on line ahead of schedule and has been turning in earnings results that fly in the face of conventional thinking in the LNG market. Today, that story can be applied to Tellurian. Souki isn't the CEO of this new attempt at building an LNG facility, but he has taken the chairman role and one of his top Cheniere lieutenants, Meg Gentle, is the CEO.
While the script isn't exactly the same as it was at Cheniere -- it is looking to sign up customers as equity partners instead of selling volume contracts, and is looking to make larger investments in pipelines and its own natural gas reserves -- this path looks very familiar for investors. Management says it's currently assessing potential partners for the project and expect to start construction by the end of the year.
There remain many more unanswered questions when it comes to Tellurian, but we have seen this management team pull this off before. If this encore performance looks anything like the prior one, then investors will probably be happy they got in early.
A strong tailwind
Jason Hall (Vestas Wind Systems): Forgiving the terrible pun above, now is a wonderful time to make an opportunistic investment in Vestas. The Danish company is a global leader in the manufacture, maintenance, and installation of wind turbines, an industry that can be very cyclical from one year to the next but has incredible long-term growth prospects.
Vestas has two big catalysts working in its favor. First is the acceleration of investments in renewables, driven as much by falling costs as the environmental benefits. Add in the advances in energy storage, and wind energy paired with storage is on track to undercut fossil fuels in price within a few years. This is why global energy investments have been swinging toward renewables in recent years.
Second, global urban and middle class populations are growing, and it's going to take a lot more energy production to meet the needs of the extra 1 billion people on the planet in coming decades. Vestas is positioned to be a key supplier of wind turbines to help meet this global need.
Over the past year, shares of Vestas fell as much as 40% from the peak, and are still down about 30% at recent prices. And while its earnings have dropped over the past year -- EPS is down 12% since April 2017 -- its stock price and valuation have slid even further. At recent prices, Vestas shares trade for 14.5 times trailing earnings. The market's short-term focus has created a great opportunity for long-term investors who can ride out the cyclical swings in demand and profit over the long haul.