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3 Top Stocks to Buy in April

By Nicholas Rossolillo – Updated Apr 7, 2020 at 4:44PM

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The world is running out of safe havens, but these companies will be able to weather the coronavirus-induced storm.

The first quarter of 2020 is in the books, finishing down 20% (as measured by the S&P 500), and the first few days of the second quarter haven't been much better, with stocks heading lower again to start April. There may appear to be deals out there, but stocks are still grappling with the growing fallout from the spread of coronavirus.

What investors are left to sort through are falling knives -- companies that look good, but whose share prices keep tumbling as there are presently still too many unknowns. Nevertheless, for those who have investment funds not needed for at least a few years, attractive long-term opportunities are presenting themselves.

Three opportunities worth weighing this month are STORE Capital (STOR -0.02%), Hasbro (HAS 0.78%), and Palo Alto Networks (PANW 0.37%).

A laptop, smartphone, and cup of coffee on a table in front of a window.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. STORE Capital: Commercial real estate getting hit especially hard

Real estate of all types is increasingly looking set to begin losing value. On the housing side, people are unlikely to shop for homes when they're confined indoors. And on the commercial side, retail-centric property is getting beat up as the possibilities of missed rent payments and possible bankruptcies mount. 

However, just as buying during the housing-induced crisis in the Great Recession of 2008-09 yielded results, so I think buying on weakness during this current commercial real estate slump will eventually pay off too. And STORE Capital has been especially hard-hit. As of this writing, units of the real estate investment trust (REIT) are down a whopping 60% year-to-date. As a result, the dividend is yielding a hefty 9% a year.

Before you hit the buy button, let me explain what this company does and who it rents to. It owns and leases out single-tenant properties to long-term tenants -- with the average remaining term at 14 years. While many retailers have been disrupted by Amazon in recent years, not so with STORE. Most of its real estate is occupied by restaurants, movie theaters, health clubs, and industrial fabrication and manufacturing firms. And therein lies the problem. While the occupancy rate was over 99% at the end of last year, the majority of STORE's tenants are not deemed "essential" and have thus been disrupted by shelter-in-place orders. 

At the end of 2019, STORE's portfolio of over 2,500 properties was valued at $8.8 billion, a figure that's sure to take a hit. That's reflected in the current market cap of just $3.7 billion. I think the selling has been overdone, though, especially for those who can ride out the storm. The company has conservatively financed its property acquisitions and had $3.6 billion in debt on the books, the dividend payout is handily covered by funds from operations, and in most cases, STORE is near the front of the line when it comes to recouping losses should one of its tenants fold completely. The road is sure to be a bumpy one, but this looks like a timely real estate pick.

2. Hasbro: Toys and games are in "strong demand"

Speaking of stocks that have been bludgeoned by market turmoil, shares of big toymaker Hasbro were down as much as 67% from all-time highs in March. Shares have subsequently rebounded and are now down "only" 47%, but suffice to say the playtime stock has been hit particularly hard.  

On one hand, it seems like popular toys that include Transformers, My Little Pony, Play-Doh, the licensed Disney merchandise from Star Wars to Marvel comics to Frozen, plus games like Monopoly and Magic: The Gathering would do well with so many cooped up at home. The recently completed takeover of children's TV series Peppa Pig and PJ Masks also seems like a positive. And in fact, CEO Brian Goldner said that demand for the company's wares has been strong so far. 

But Hasbro doesn't provide quarterly guidance, and "strong demand" could still mean lower revenue if it's less of a loss than peers. Hasbro also ended 2019 with $4.1 billion in debt, thanks to the aforementioned kids' programming takeover. The uncertainty thus explains the stock's wild moves.  

I still think it's a timely purchase anyway. For what it's worth, shares trade for 17.8 times trailing 12-month free cash flow (revenue less cash operating and capital expenses) and the dividend yields 3.9%. And I like the company's growing presence in the digital world, turning its most popular toy franchises into TV shows, movies, and video games. With a production studio now also in-house, this toymaker is well-positioned for the future of playtime.

3. Palo Alto Networks: Cybersecurity more important than ever

Finally, I've been scooping up shares of cybersecurity pure-play leader Palo Alto Networks. The company has dropped over $2 billion on acquisitions the last two years to make the transition to cloud computing-based security services, a move that is likely to pay off with the world getting a sharp shove toward all things digital due to the pandemic.

But Palo Alto Networks isn't finished yet. It just announced another security takeover, this time the target being CloudGenix -- a leader in software-defined network security. The private company is getting scooped up for $420 million and getting added to Palo Alto's Prisma Access cloud service. While this in itself isn't a reason to buy Palo Alto stock, in light of recent events it's clear the security company is operating from a position of strength.

In spite of all the spending, Palo Alto generated $890 million in free cash flow in the last 12 months on revenue of $3.1 billion. And even as the cybersecurity industry overall has slowed down as of late, the company still posted revenue growth of 15% in its last quarter. All of the acquisitions are responsible for that expanding top line, but management expects its execution in closing deals to improve with all the new cloud capabilities -- and CloudGenix should certainly help. So too will the work-from-home movement that just got a big boost.  

To sweeten the deal, a $1 billion accelerated share repurchase program is set to get underway during the current quarter. With the stock down over 30% from highs, now is certainly the time to be buying. Palo Alto Networks and the $3.1 billion in cash and equivalents it had on its books at the end of January is proof that cash is king in times of distress.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Nicholas Rossolillo and his clients own shares of Hasbro, Palo Alto Networks, STORE Capital, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Hasbro, Palo Alto Networks, STORE Capital, and Walt Disney and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney, short April 2020 $135 calls on Walt Disney, short January 2022 $1940 calls on Amazon, and long January 2022 $1920 calls on Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Hasbro Stock Quote
Hasbro
HAS
$68.83 (0.78%) $0.54
Palo Alto Networks Stock Quote
Palo Alto Networks
PANW
$176.31 (0.37%) $0.66
STORE Capital Stock Quote
STORE Capital
STOR
$31.48 (-0.02%) $0.01

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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