It might seem counterintuitive, but a stock trading at $20 isn't necessarily "cheaper" than a stock that's priced at $1,000. Because shares are an ownership stake in a company, earnings performance and the proportion of your stake in the business tend to be the key factors in your return on investment. This means metrics like market capitalization, earnings growth, assets and debt, and dividend yield tend to be much more helpful than stock price when you're looking for great equities.
That said, focusing on stocks that trade at low, pure-dollar prices can sometimes help you find beaten-down or otherwise overlooked companies that have the potential to post big gains. It can also afford you a greater degree of flexibility with your investing. After all, you're going to have a hard time investing $500 in Amazon stock, which is currently priced north of $1,800 per share.
With the potential benefits of setting a low (price) bar in mind, we asked three Motley Fool contributors each to spotlight a top stock that costs less than $20. Read on to see why they identified Changyou.com (NASDAQ:CYOU), Glu Mobile (NASDAQ:GLUU), and Hi-Crush Partners (NYSE:HCLP) as great stocks that you can own for less than a Jackson.
Moving on from the Kardashians
Leo Sun (Glu Mobile): Glu Mobile went public at $11.50 per share back in 2007, but the mobile game publisher's shares now trade at around $6. Glu subsequently expanded with the acquisitions of MIG, Superscape, Griptonite Games, GameSpy Technologies, and PlayFirst, but it didn't really leave a mark until its release of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood in 2014.
Kim Kardashian: Hollywood was a hit, but Glu's attempts to replicate that success with other celebrity-backed games fell short of expectations. High royalty fees from those titles, decelerating sales growth, and a lack of profits caused Glu's stock to tumble below $2 per share in late 2016.
But then Glu mounted a remarkable comeback. It diversified away from celebrity titles and expanded its portfolio with well-received new intellectual properties like Deer Hunter, Design Home, Covet Fashion, and Tap Sports Baseball. Last quarter, Glu's total revenues rose 43% annually, its total bookings climbed 25%, and 69% of its sales came from original IPs with no royalties due. As a result, its net loss narrowed from $22.8 million in the prior-year quarter to $7.2 million.
Analysts expect Glu's revenue to rise 15% this year as it posts its first full-year profit. If Glu hits that target, its stock will trade at just 18 times forward earnings. That reasonable valuation, along with its low enterprise value of $830 million, makes it a tempting takeover target for bigger gaming companies. Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings (NASDAQOTH:TCEHY), which already owns over a fifth of Glu, would be the most likely suitor.
A 19% dividend yield: Here to stay?
Maxx Chatsko (Hi-Crush Partners): Seemingly everything has gone right for Hi-Crush Partners recently, as evidenced by the stock's recent surge. At the end of July, the supplier of frack sand and industrial ceramics:
- announced an acquisition to bolster its high-margin last-mile logistics operations;
- increased its quarterly distribution of $0.75;
- unveiled a new supply agreement; and
- told investors it was offering $450 million in debt notes to refinance higher interest debt
-- all on the same day.
The thing that will catch the eye of most investors is the distribution hike, which works out to $3 per share on an annualized basis. That represents a dividend yield of 20% at a share price of $15. While in the past Hi-Crush Partners has paid (sometimes wildly) varying quarterly distributions based on the performance of the business, unitholders may be able to expect the hefty distributions to keep up for the next several quarters. Why?
Management recently hinted that Hi-Crush Partners is seriously considering converting from a master limited partnership (MLP) to a C-corporation. However, in order to do that, the company is legally obligated to pay quarterly distributions of at least $0.7125 per unit for four consecutive quarters. Assuming the distribution for the next three quarters reaches or exceeds that level, and accounting for the most recent distribution of $0.75 per unit, this energy stock may boast a distribution of at least 19% (at $15 per share) in the near term.
Combine the potential for incredible distributions in the coming quarters, continued strength in the frack sand industry, and growing operations in the all-important Permian Basin, and there's a solid argument to make that this is a top stock under $20.
A beaten-down video game company
Keith Noonan (Changyou.com): I've been keeping an eye on Chinese game developer and publisher Changyou.com for a couple of years now, and I recently took the plunge and purchased shares in the company. Video game stocks have been hot in recent years, but Changyou.com has missed out on the action. In fact, shares have lost more than 60% of their value over the last year, and now trade at just 10.5 times this year's expected earnings.
Last year, the company's chairman made a nonbinding offer to take it private and buy all American depositary shares at a price of $42.10 each. The stock isn't attracting much attention on the Nasdaq -- at least partially because American investors are unfamiliar with the company and its games. However, the bid was not followed up on by the rest of the board, and Changyou's chairman (likely acting on behalf of parent company Sohu.com -- which he also chairs) sent another letter indicating that he was looking at revising his offer.
The update on the proposal came after the business hit some snags, with worse-than-expected performance for its most recent big mobile release and declines for some of its key legacy titles, causing earnings to come in lower than anticipated. Even so, I think that the company can bounce back from its recent stumbles, and that it's undervalued relative to its current fundamentals.
Even if a buyout doesn't move forward, China's mobile games industry is still growing at a healthy clip -- and all it would take to send Changyou's share price soaring is to have one of its upcoming games become a hit. Granted, there's not a whole lot of visibility on whether that will happen, but the company has a solid lineup of live titles that should give it some time to deliver new hits, or come up with more effective monetization schemes for current games.
The company also operates a movie-theater advertising business. With ticket sales in China still posting big annual growth, there's room for expansion there as well.
The near-term earnings picture isn't that appealing. But Changyou has been consistently profitable, trades at a low multiple for its industry, and has a strong balance sheet. At roughly $15 a share, I think it's a smart buy.