After one of the fastest meltdowns in history, the stock market followed up a devastating first quarter of 2020 with an equally astonishing recovery. Boosted by a more important than ever digital economy, many stocks are back to setting fresh all-time highs.
But don't despair, value investors. In spite of the whirlwind year, there are plenty of mature companies trading at reasonable valuations (and not in need of any serious help). Three that I think are buys right now are Verizon (NYSE:VZ), Target (NYSE:TGT), and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC).
Mobility is a modern staple
Verizon is holding its own in this volatile environment. The world has advanced beyond the time when mobile phone services were a luxury. Faced with shelter-in-place orders, businesses and consumers alike held on to their wireless plans -- with some even relying on them like never before to stay connected.
As a result, Verizon's total operating revenue is down only 3.3% so far this year to $62.1 billion, and net income is down just 1.2% to $9.1 billion. Its stable wireless business was slightly offset by lost cable TV and landline subscriptions and lower Verizon Media revenue (assets from the old AOL and Yahoo! acquisitions).
Verizon continues to forecast stable bottom-line results for the back half of the year, even as it spends an expected $17.5 billion to $18.5 billion to continuously improve its network and stave off the next-gen 5G ambitions of its rivals AT&T and T-Mobile.
As a reminder, though, Verizon is taking a different approach with its 5G network -- faster but lower-coverage service geared primarily toward businesses and dense urban areas. And even the updated services from its peers mostly just match the existing 4G LTE that Verizon already touts. T-Mobile's takeover of Sprint this year could change the long-term dynamic, but for now, Verizon is safe.
In the meantime, investors should continue to focus on Verizon's rising free cash flow (basic profitability measured as revenue minus cash operating and capital expenses, from which dividends are paid). Free cash flow (FCF) was $21.1 billion over the last 12 months, a 21% increase over the prior year. And through the first six months of 2020, dividends paid to shareholders equaled $5.1 billion, eating up less than half of total free cash generated. The current dividend yield of 4.2% sits atop a solid foundation.
One key area to monitor is Verizon's sizable debt load, amounting to $112.8 billion at the end of June. But at this juncture, the company is fully capable of managing its liabilities and keeping its lucrative payout rolling. Trading for just 11.8 times trailing 12-month FCF, this telecom looks like a serious long-term value play.
A best-in-class big box store
Far from suffering during the pandemic, as would be typical in a "normal" recession, Target's retailing operation is going strong. Second-quarter comparable-store sales surged 24% year over year, the best in the company's history, thanks in no small part to a 195% gain in digital sales. As a result, revenue and net income increased 25% and 80%, respectively, to $23.0 billion and $1.7 billion. Shares are up 17% year to date and 40% over the last 12 months.
It isn't simply a one-time e-commerce bump from COVID-19. Target started investing in its operating model a few years ago to turn its brick-and-mortar stores into fulfillment centers as well. In fact, stores fulfilled 90% of purchases in the fiscal second quarter even as many people were confined to their homes. This retailer has made great strides in offering flexible options for shoppers, from a traditional in-store experience to quick front-door delivery.
Target has also been hastening the decline of department stores for years. In the second quarter, management saw double-digit percentage increases in categories from clothing to electronics to home decor and kitchenware, as its own brands gained traction with consumers. This is much more impressive in light of data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicating sales for many of these retail categories have shrunk so far in 2020 -- implying that Target is picking up market share even as department store chains continue to flounder.
The company's investments from the last few years are still paying off, so I don't think the stock's run is over. Even after the year-to-date rally, it trades for 11.8 times FCF, and a 1.8% dividend yield complements the value. It isn't the highest growth name in the retail industry, but Target is nevertheless a compelling investment right now for those looking for a deal.
Chipzilla is far from defeated
With a market cap of $222 billion and trailing 12-month revenue of $79 billion, Intel is indeed at a point where it has more to lose than it has to gain. However, even as a myriad of smaller competitors nip at its heels, Intel is deeply ingrained in the psyche of the tech world. It's going to take more than the occasional superior semiconductor release from its peers to uproot Chipzilla from the global stage.
Granted, Intel has faced some challenges lately. It's one of just a few semiconductor companies that both design and manufacture chips. But Intel recently announced its 7-nanometer architecture is being delayed -- adding to worries it is falling far behind fabrication leader Taiwan Semiconductor. And scrappy AMD is looking much less like an underdog as it ups its technological prowess. But Intel has countered that it can still make improvements to its existing core technology as it irons out its fabrication-update delays.
Even though revenue and net income increased 20% and 22%, respectively, in its second quarter and trailing 12-month FCF has risen 49% to $21.9 billion, the tech stalwart's stock has taken a 13% tumble so far this year. Problems aside, this is a highly profitable company, and it pays a dividend currently yielding 2.6% to boot (which has used up only one-quarter of free cash generated so far in 2020).
As of this writing, Intel trades for just 10.1 times trailing 12-month FCF. Fellow Motley Fool contributor Anders Bylund doesn't think this stock will stay this cheap for long. Though there are plenty of long-term question marks surrounding the semiconductor industry, I agree. Intel belongs on value investors' radar.