Black Friday is right around the corner, and shoppers are beginning to scour the internet for the best deals. For value investors, the hunt for underappreciated and undervalued stocks is a year-round endeavor. But with a market that's surged some 24% higher in the last year (as measured by the S&P 500 index), those deals can be tough to find.
But deals are still around. Making a buy with the market riding sky-high, fears over a looming recession not completely buried, and a U.S.-China trade deal still on tenuous ground might not feel like good timing, but value investors have always needed to be a patient and long-term focused bunch. With that in mind, three stocks I think are mispriced for their long-haul potential are Facebook (META 3.70%), Chevron (CVX -0.31%), and Arista Networks (ANET 9.06%).
Social media is here to stay
Facebook is perhaps the most controversial company around for nearly two years running. Issues with data handling practices and the company's policy on policing of bad actors on the platform have turned into a political hotbed. As a result, the stock has gone virtually nowhere in the last 24 months.
Nevertheless, even in Facebook's home markets in North America where it's drawing the most fire, user growth and engagement have begun to slightly increase again. When you add in emerging markets where internet use is still on the rise, total monthly average users increased 8% in Q3 2019 to 2.45 billion. As Facebook continues to figure out how to maximize its advertising potential, the higher user and engagement metrics equated to a 29% rise in revenue to $17.7 billion. So much for the anti-Facebook movement.
In fact, the social media platform has continued to grow throughout this period of increased scrutiny, and management continues to expect top-line expansion to exceed 20% through 2020. Profits may have been held in check by a sharp increase in spending due to Facebook's attempts to make the platform more safe and secure, along with a record $5 billion FTC fine in 2019. But the bottom line has nonetheless continued to grow. Through the first nine months of the year, free cash flow (money left over after operating and capital expenses are paid) is up 32% to $15.8 billion.
As a result, this high-growth stock has started to look like a real value play. Trailing-12-month price to free cash flow is at 29, but one-year forward earnings (which factor in Facebook lapping that big FTC fine) are at a reasonable 21.7. Given that the S&P 500 is at 18.9 one-year forward earnings with only a high single-digit earnings growth expectation, Facebook shares are on my buy list right now.
Betting on the cyclicality of oil prices
2019 has been another tough year for energy price-dependent oil producers. What started out as an early year rally has given way to a decline as fears over a slowing global economy have caused oil prices to retreat -- and many oil stocks with them.
Chevron is one of those beaten-up energy stocks, even though the integrated oil major has barely skipped a beat. Oil prices are down over 10% from their spring 2019 highs, and Chevron's revenue is down 8% over the last 12-month stretch, but free cash flow has remained stable and is up 1%. As a result, this stock trades for just 13.2 times free cash flow and currently carries a price-to-book value of 1.43. Both are more than reasonable valuations for this bellwether.
In the meantime, Chevron continues to invest in new projects to raise its overall profitability profile. Energy prices, which are under pressure, are taking a small toll at the moment, but oil is a cyclical business that ebbs and flows. Eventually, it will bounce back, and Chevron is likely to have a big bottom-line rebound when it does.
Still, this is a pretty boring pick. Oil isn't exactly a high-growth industry, but investors willing to sit on a handful of Chevron shares should enjoy consistently higher highs over the next decade and collect a dividend that currently yields 4.1% along the way. I'm OK with that.
A former highflier decides to play value stock
Here's another non-traditional value pick: Arista Networks. Much like Facebook, this is a former high-octane growth stock, but the last two years haven't been kind to Arista. After a lot of ups and downs, shares are currently down 18% since the start of 2018. Ouch.
Arista is a seller of networking hardware for the data center industry, so variability in sales results are to be expected. Data center construction has cooled in that time, effects from the U.S.-China trade war have been a concern, and the delayed release of next-gen 400G networking equipment until 2021 has also been slightly disappointing. However, over the last 24-month stretch, Arista has overcome these worries and revenue is up 49% over that stretch of time.
So what gives with the stock action? The most recent concern is over guidance for Q4 2019 and a weak outlook for 2020 as a key customer (presumably Facebook) is not providing longer-term guidance on purchases. Other large data center operators are expected to take a breather on construction next year. However, total internet traffic is only expected to keep rising, and longer-term demand for Arista's wares is still there. One quarter -- and not even one year -- is going to derail this network-hardware leader.
The thing about value investing, though, is that it often requires patience. Arista has a history of providing prudent guidance. Even if 2020 is a bad year, the company still has a lot going for it. Plus, the stock trades for just 17.2 times free cash flow and 20.4 times 12-month earnings, cheaper than the average 24.2 times for the S&P 500. Expectations are low and investors are depressed. Now's the time to load up on this technology provider for the long term. That's why I think Arista Networks belongs on this list.