Master investor Warren Buffett would always prefer to "buy a wonderful company at a fair price [rather] than a fair company at a wonderful price." I won't argue with the wisdom of that celebrated quote, but it's even better if you can grab a wonderful stock at a wonderful price.
That is not a common find, of course. "Wonderful" stock prices are often low for a good reason. You should always tread lightly around incredible discounts, because they are often tied to very real business risks.
All that being said, wonderful companies do trade at wonderful prices from time to time. Even Buffett would agree that the ability to find those rare gems can put some rocket fuel in your long-term growth ambitions.
So let me give you a hand with that. In my humble opinion, Micron Technology (NASDAQ:MU) and The Michaels Companies (NASDAQ:MIK) qualify as great stocks that are available at deep-discount sale prices today.
Once upon a time, not too many years ago, memory-chip maker Micron wasn't a stock for the risk-averse investor. Every two or three years, the memory market would swing violently between steady sailing and brutal price wars. Micron's stock would double or triple in a few short months, then come crashing down when the weather vane turned again.
Back then, many small companies battled for a slice of that important industry. But every drastic downturn would drive a few of the smaller challengers out of business, giving the survivors a chance to pick up their intellectual-property assets and manufacturing facilities at bankruptcy-auction discounts. Lather, rinse, and repeat, with Micron on the winning side in every cycle -- and the sector eventually boiled down to a few major suppliers with no real competition from below.
I don't see sector leader Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) pushing for another price war at this point. The idea to shake out the weak hands has been played out, leaving a mere handful of stable giants that won't give up the ghost that easily.
If Micron wanted to have another go at it, Micron and SK Hynix combined could match Samsung's DRAM market share -- easily enough to let them slow down a Samsung-spawned wave of oversupply by tapping the brakes on their own manufacturing lines.
Samsung holds just one-third of the NAND market, making that segment even less vulnerable to a sudden price war. Here, the big three are joined by Western Digital's (NASDAQ:WDC) SanDisk division and Toshiba. That's still a small enough group with deep enough pockets to thwart any future supply side market floods.
So it really is different this time. Micron is positioned to benefit from relatively stable street prices for many years to come. The current price corrections aren't likely to go very deep.
Yet the stock market seems to expect a huge downturn any day now. Micron's shares are trading at bargain-bin prices: 3.1 times trailing earnings, 4.9 times free cash flow, and just 1.3 times the company's total book value. That's for a company with annual sales growth of 27% over the last five years, a 47% bottom-line profit margin, and nearly no long-term debt.
That's a wonderful company whose stock trades at a wonderful price.
The Michaels Companies
Traditional retailers are supposed to be a dying breed. Crushed by the low-cost business models you see in Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) and other e-tailers, many big-box stores just can't keep up.
Arts-and-crafts supply specialist Michaels is an exception to the rule.
The chain actually sports a wider profit margin than mighty Amazon. Michaels is reluctantly dipping its toes in the online retailing pool, but most of its success still stems from very traditional physical stores. The company is building more stores than it closes, remodeling its entire network to a new plan built around deep analysis of customer habits and preferences, and this year's remodeling expenses should trigger stronger profit margins and revenue growth in 2019 and beyond.
All of this is possible because Michaels caters to a very different breed of core customers. When it comes to art supplies, many buyers want to get their hands on the goods before making a purchase. Choosing specific items on a shelf filled with rough-hewn oak boards, or finding a fabric of the perfect hue and texture -- well, you can't do those things through an impersonal computer screen.
That's how Michaels is thriving while many of its old-school retail peers struggle to stay afloat. Many investors don't accept this sorcery, assuming the online giants will crush this stalwart survivor in due time. So now Michaels shares are changing hands at the low, low price of 8.3 times trailing earnings or 9.6 times free cash flow.
That's another great stock available at a great price right now.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Anders Bylund owns shares of Amazon and Micron Technology. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool recommends The Michaels Companies. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.