The stock market has rallied sharply since crashing in March. Although the S&P 500 was down by roughly 40% from all-time highs at the depths of the plunge, it is now within shouting distance of being positive for 2020.
However, there are still some bargains to be found in the most beaten-down sectors, and many aren't as risky as you might think. Hotel real estate investment trust (REIT) Ryman Hospitality Group (RHP 2.13%) and online bank Axos Financial (AX 4.48%) are still lower by 57% and 29%, respectively, year to date, and could be bargains for patient long-term investors.
A bad business -- but not for long
It shouldn't surprise anyone that owning a hotel hasn't exactly been a great experience for the past few months. And owning a hotel that focuses on group business is even worse.
Ryman Hospitality Properties owns five massive hotels under the Gaylord brand, and all of them are among the 10 largest group-focused hotels outside of the gaming industry. When the pandemic hit and all gatherings were canceled, Ryman's occupancy dropped so low that it didn't even make sense to stay open. And as nonessential businesses, Ryman's entertainment assets, which include the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, and the growing Ole Red entertainment venue chain, were closed down as well. So while many hotel operators have had some business during the pandemic, Ryman's revenue dropped to virtually zero.
Having said that, there are some good reasons why Ryman is worth a look today. For starters, the company has $828 million in liquidity available, which is 22 months' worth of the company's shutdown cash needs.
And it shouldn't need to burn cash for nearly that long. Ryman expects four out of its five hotels to reopen by the end of June, with the remaining hotel open by the end of July. In order to maximize its revenue upon reopening, Ryman plans to focus on leisure travelers for the first three months, which should help boost occupancy in the near term since group events aren't likely to resume at first.
The reopening efforts don't need to be that successful for Ryman to get back on track. Most of its properties can break even with occupancy of 35% or less, and the company estimates that its entire hotel business would be profitable with half of its rooms occupied.
Going forward, there's not much of a reason to worry about the company. Ryman's group business books up years in advance, plus many of the canceled events have already rescheduled. In fact, between 2021 and 2022 alone, Ryman has 3 million net room nights on its books already.
A beaten-down bank with lots of reasons to buy
Axos Financial, the online-based bank formerly known as BofI or Bank of Internet, has been beaten down amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and is still 29% lower for 2020.
There are a few good reasons for this. The bank has some exposure to riskier loans -- about $400 million of its roughly $10 billion loan portfolio is commercial loans in the hotel, retail, and oil and gas industries. And there's significant risk of default in its mortgage portfolio if the economic effects of the pandemic last longer than expected.
On the other hand, there are some compelling reasons why you might want to consider Axos for your portfolio. For one thing, the bank enjoys the efficiency advantages of being a branchless banking network without the riskier unsecured lending that many online banks do. Personal loans make up a tiny percentage of Axos' loan portfolio and about 95% of the bank's total loans (including the commercial loans mentioned earlier) are asset-backed. Axos doesn't have any credit card business, and the average credit score of its personal loan customers is over 760 (generally considered excellent credit).
Meanwhile, Axos has generated a return on equity (ROE) of 17% or higher in each of its past five fiscal years (over 10% is generally considered to be strong). Its efficiency ratio is better than all but 8% of banking institutions. Finally, the bank has been consistently growing deposits, loans, and net income at a double-digit percentage for years.
Axos has some of the inherent benefits of being an online lender without the drawbacks (riskier unsecured loans). Now could be a good time to buy while the uncertainty stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic is still priced into the stock.
Expect some turbulence in the near term
To be clear, I expect a bumpy road ahead for these two stocks as the pandemic continues to unfold. Every time bad coronavirus-related news comes out, I would expect negative pressure on the stock, and positive news will produce sharp upward movements. Over time, however, the quality of these two businesses should be the driving force behind their stock's performance, and long-term investors could be glad they bought shares while they're still cheap.