The stock market performed quite well in 2020, bouncing back from its worst levels in March to power ahead to strong gains. Many stocks more than doubled in price, sending their valuations to lofty heights.
However, there were some stocks that weren't so lucky. Hard-hit areas like aerospace, banking, and energy weren't able to claw back their losses, as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors combined to keep their share prices lower than where they'd started the year.
As 2021 begins, though, some of these fallen angels are starting to perk up. Even though they've clawed back some of their lost ground, these three stocks have a lot of room to rise further -- and could potentially double in value by the end of the year.
Sabre (SABR 2.55%) is a software and technology company, but in what was a good year for the tech sector broadly, the Texas-based company found itself in just about the worst possible position in 2020. Sabre is a former subsidiary of American Airlines Group (AAL -2.92%), specializing in helping the global travel industry function more efficiently.
Historically, Sabre's airline operations, booking management, and hospitality solutions platforms have been stalwart producers of revenue and profits. However, with the airline industry crushed by pandemic-related travel restrictions, Sabre saw its own business prospects sink dramatically. Sales plunged 92% in the second quarter of 2020, with losses in the first nine months of the year adding up to more than $965 million.
Yet Sabre is positioning itself for a bounce in airline and travel activity. Late last year, the company partnered with Alphabet's (GOOGL -1.34%) (GOOG -1.29%) Google unit to launch the artificial intelligence-driven Sabre Travel AI platform. Sabre and Google intend for the platform to offer customers personalized content to boost margins. As investors see that Sabre can put the past behind it and return toward a more sustainable growth trajectory, the stock could move higher -- and just getting back to where shares started 2020 would represent a double from here.
The energy industry took a lot of damage in 2020, and plunging oil prices didn't just hurt oil and gas exploration and production companies. Schlumberger (SLB 0.66%) is a leading global player in oilfield services, and with so many E&P companies struggling to make ends meet, the first place they cut their budgets was in adding production capacity.
The result was another terrible year financially for Schlumberger. Revenue fell 28% in 2020 from 2019 levels, and a second straight year of massive impairment charges pushed Schlumberger's losses above the $10 billion mark for the second straight year.
Now, however, energy has started to rebound. Oil prices have moved back above $50 per barrel, and some E&P companies are beginning to look more actively at resuming their exploratory activities. That's good news for Schlumberger and other oilfield services providers, and with Schlumberger stock having fetched triple its current price as recently as mid-2018, asking for a double from here doesn't seem like too much to expect.
3. Wells Fargo
Last up is Wells Fargo (WFC -0.79%). 2020 was a tough year in the banking industry, but Wells has seen plenty of difficulty for several years now.
Wells Fargo has been hamstrung by regulators at the Federal Reserve because of the many scandals in which the California-based bank has been involved in recent years. The Fed has put limits on Wells Fargo's asset base, preventing it from growing even as other institutions take advantage of new lending opportunities. Meanwhile, low interest rates have crushed income levels from the bank's most prevalent source of profit. All of that has hurt revenue, and ballooning loan loss provisions in 2020 took an even deeper bite to the bottom line, as full-year 2020 earnings plummeted well over 80%.
Now, Wells Fargo sees the potential for better times ahead. Bringing the pandemic under control would have a huge impact on loan loss reserve needs and jump start commercial activity. The bank also expects to restart its stock buyback program in 2021, which could provide a key source of support for the stock price. Add to that the possibility that the Fed might finally decide the bank has suffered enough, and you'd have the pieces in place to send the stock price doubling to its best levels since 2018.
High risk, high reward
These three stocks went through extremely tough times in 2020. Their share prices fell for a reason, and the companies remain riskier than many of their peers in the stock market. If they can get their acts together and start executing more effectively again, however, then Wells Fargo, Schlumberger, and Sabre all have the potential to see their share prices double.