Bargain-hunting investors might be intrigued by inexpensive shares of companies that seem to leave lots of room for growth. But just because a stock is down doesn't mean it can't fall even further. If this is your strategy, you'll want as much information as possible, as well as an extensive operating history. So steer clear of the penny stocks traded on the over-the-counter market in favor of companies on the major exchanges, which have stricter reporting rules.
Companies that have not yet turned a profit, or are working hard to execute a turnaround, or are undervalued in a particular market may represent some of the best deals out there. So here's a closer look at two that fit those criteria.
Banking on birth control
Agile Therapeutics (AGRX 0.61%) has seen a good deal of ups and downs since its initial public offering in 2014, but the company may finally be poised to see a payoff from its years of work to change the way women use contraceptives.
Agile has pinned big hopes on Twirla, a birth-control patch that's up for final approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on or before Feb. 16. The company sees its addressable U.S. market for the patch as being worth $3.8 billion. Twirla has been rejected by regulators twice before, however, so the risk remains that history could repeat itself.
The company has not yet posted any revenue, but after announcing a senior secured term loan credit facility with Perceptive Advisors on Monday, it expects to be able to fund operations through the end of this year -- although some of the money it's expecting is dependent on Twirla's approval (including $15 million of the $35 million it could ultimately receive from Perceptive Advisors). On the plus side, Agile has no long-term debt, and for the third quarter it recorded a narrower loss than the same period a year ago, at $0.08 per share versus $0.11 per share.
An overlooked multinational lender
Banco Santander (SAN -0.72%) launched in Spain, but has branched out to operate in 10 main markets throughout Europe and the Americas, amassing more than 145 million customers in personal, business, and commercial lending. It currently boasts a dividend yield around 7%, but that yield looks so good in part because the stock is down more than 30% over the past two years.
Santander's stock is trading a little over $4 after a planned CEO transition fell through last year. CEO José Antonio Álvarez was planning to transition to chairman of Santander Spain before the bank canceled a plan to hire a new chief executive based on compensation concerns. And if you take a quick look at some top financial metrics for banks, Santander doesn't seem too exciting -- it has a nice, low efficiency ratio but a relatively high ratio of underperforming loans and weak coverage of bad loans, among other things.
That said, the bank has shown recent signs of improvement, increasing its dividend by 3% for 2019 and posting a 2% year-over-year increase in revenue. The bank has made a niche for itself in renewables and project finance lending, though it was hurt by an impairment of 1.6 billion euros on its UK division based on what it characterized as a "challenging regulatory environment." And it has been on a path to focus more intently on building up in South America, recently seeing some real progress in Brazil. In the most recent quarter, underlying profit in South America was up 18%, in part driven by higher volume in all countries and increased loyalty. Digital customers increased 15% to 17.3 million and loyal customers increased to 7.9 million, up 7%.