Buying stocks for less than they're worth seems like a simple concept. But it's rarely as easy in practice, which is why the majority of individual investors fail to even beat the broader market's returns.
To that end, we asked three top Motley Fool contributors to each discuss a value stock they think investors would be wise to buy now. Read on to learn why they like Corning (GLW -1.16%), SSR Mining (SSRM 0.42%), and ExxonMobil Corporation (XOM 0.79%).
Corning's strength is as clear as ever
Steve Symington (Corning): When shares of Corning traded around 30% below their 52-week high at the start of July, you might have thought the glass technology leader had posted horrendous results to get there. But you would have thought wrong; Corning stock fell in spite of two solid quarterly reports in January and April. Investors primarily lamented a temporary pullback in Corning's specialty materials sales (including Gorilla Glass), and the company's hefty investments to drive longer-term growth through capacity expansion projects and operational efficiency initiatives.
But the market simply couldn't ignore Corning's strength when it posted better-than-expected second-quarter results last week. Shares soared more than 11% the following day, helped by broad-based growth from each of the company's various business segments, and management's prediction that Corning will experience a "step-change in sales and profitability" starting in the third quarter. For the latter, we can thank those pesky projects and initiatives that are beginning to yield their desired results.
Even then, Corning stock still trades at a reasonable 16.3 times this year's expected earnings. What's more, Corning outlined several ambitious goals for the coming years, including growing its optical sales into a $5 billion business by 2020 (or a roughly 25% increase from its current annual run rate), building its newer gasoline particulate segment into a $500 million annual business, doubling its mobile consumer electronics sales over the next several years, fostering its Valor Glass pharmaceutical packaging product (which remains in its infancy), and maintaining stable returns from its more mature display technologies segment (think LCD glass substrates).
Finally, per its four-year strategic and capital allocation plan, unveiled in late 2015, Corning has promised to return another $1.7 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases by the end of next year (out of an original $12.5 billion goal), and remains on track to invest $10 billion back into the business to capture future growth.
For investors willing to buy and watch Corning's story continue to play out, I think the stock's recent gains are only the beginning.
A quick polish will get this top value stock back on track
Sean Williams (SSR Mining): Though I'm picking a company right out of my own stock portfolio, I struggle to find a more intriguing value stock than gold and silver miner SSR Mining.
Recently, SSR Mining's share price has hit a bit of a snag. A stronger dollar has weighed on spot gold and silver, which has the potential to reduce margins for all precious-metal miners. Meanwhile, production at the San Miguel open-pit silver mine ceased last year, lowering SSR Mining's silver output, and reducing its near-term earnings per share and cash flow forecast.
So, what's to like? How about everything moving forward?
In 2016, SSR Mining gobbled up Canadian-based gold miner Claude Resources. This acquisition landed it the Seabee mine, which contains the high-ore-grade, low-cost Santoy Gap. Since acquiring Claude, the Seabee mine is on track to once again hit record gold production at a low all-in sustaining cost.
The Seabee mine pairs perfectly with SSR Mining's low-cost flagship Marigold mine in Nevada. By 2021 or 2022, the company believes it can grow annual output at Marigold from what it produced in 2017 by more than 30%, to 265,000 ounces of gold. SSR anticipates that recent reserve increases will allow mining activity at Marigold to continue for at least 10 more years, with 15 years of production still to come.
Lastly, a joint venture with Golden Arrow Resources in Argentina, known as the Chinchillas project, is expected to yield new silver production during the second half of this year. What was lost from San Miguel will soon help diversify SSR Mining away from its reliance on gold.
Now for the meat and potatoes of how this qualifies as a value stock. By traditional metrics, like earnings per share, SSR Mining appears fairly priced on a forward basis. But EPS isn't a great way to measure value with precious metals. Instead, I prefer price-to-cash-flow per share (P/CFPS). Since operating cash flow is what allows mining companies to maintain existing mines, explore, buy equipment, and so on, it's a far better measure of value.
Having closely followed mining companies for years, I've come to the personal conclusion that a miner is fairly valued at 10 times its P/CFPS. As for SSR Mining, it's valued at 8 times its CFPS for 2019, 6.5 times its CFPS for 2020, and 5.1 times its CFPS for 2021. In my view, it's a value stock that could have around 100% upside over the next 3 1/2 years.
It's going to take some time
Reuben Gregg Brewer (ExxonMobil Corporation): I feel like a broken record, but giant integrated oil and natural gas company Exxon is looking mighty cheap these days. Exxon's yield is higher than it has been since the 1990s, and the company's price-to-tangible-book-value ratio hasn't been this low since the late 1980s. Investors clearly think Exxon is much less desirable today than it was in the past:
There are good reasons for this, including falling production and middling ROCE (return on capital employed) numbers. It's been so bad that The Motley Fool's Tyler Crowe recently described Exxon's first-quarter results as "testing investors' patience." It's true.
The thing is, Exxon is a giant, conservatively managed company that simply doesn't change quickly. But it has plans to fix what ails it, including a big development pipeline and a goal of roughly doubling ROCE by taking greater control of key investments (it's particularly skilled at delivering on giant development projects).
If everything works out as planned, Exxon thinks it can increase earnings by 35% even if oil falls to $40 per barrel. If oil stays around where it is today, earnings should roughly double. And if oil advances to $80 per barrel, earnings should increase by 225%.
The problem is the time frame, which looks out to 2025. Investors just don't want to wait that long, which is why Exxon looks relatively cheap right now. But if you don't mind collecting a solid 4% yield from a conservatively run company while you give the turnaround time to develop, then Exxon really is a value stock you might want to buy today.