The stock market has gotten off to a fiery start to 2021, with most indexes up sharply during the first few weeks of the year. That rise comes on the heels of last year's red-hot run up from Wall Street's pandemic-dampened early-spring lows. At this point, value-seeking investors are likely growing weary, as bargains are few and far between.
However, there are still a few enticing value stocks out there for bargain-hunters. Three that look absurdly cheap right now are energy infrastructure giant Kinder Morgan (KMI 1.48%), midstream MLP MPLX (MPLX 3.15%), and office REIT SL Green Realty (SLG 3.49%).
A cash flow machine
Kinder Morgan operates one of North America's largest natural gas pipeline systems. The company's network acts as a toll road that transports gas and other fossil fuels from production basins to end-users. Its fees are dependent on the volumes of hydrocarbons it moves through its systems -- and it moves a lot, so it generates plenty of cash. It produced $4.6 billion in cash in 2020, which was enough to cover its 7.4%-yielding dividend and its capital program with room to spare.
While continued headwinds in the energy market will impact Kinder Morgan's cash flow this year, it still expects to produce a healthy $4.4 billion in cash. Once again, that will be more than enough to cover its dividend and expansion program. Kinder Morgan stock has been changing hands recently at around $14.25, and the company will produce about $1.95 per share in cash this year, so it's trading at around 7 times cash flow. I think that's a ridiculously low valuation for a financially stable company that generates so much cash.
Kinder Morgan's management agrees. It plans to use some of its excess cash to repurchase as much as $450 million in shares this year. On top of that, it plans to boost its already sizable dividend by another 3%. Because of that, shareholders will get paid well as they wait for the stock's value to improve.
Hitting an inflection point
Like Kinder Morgan, MPLX operates a sizable energy midstream network that generates lots of cash. The MLP produced $4.3 billion in cash last year, which was enough to cover its monster 11.4%-yielding distribution and its expansion program with some room to spare. Meanwhile, the MLP expects its cash flow to continue rising this year, fueled by improving market conditions and the completion of several expansion projects. Factor in the company's intention to cut its capital spending, and it's obvious why MPLX expects to generate even more excess cash in 2021.
With units of the MLP recently trading at around $24.25 apiece, it sells at the astoundingly cheap level of about 6 times its cash flow. Because of that, it recently joined Kinder Morgan in authorizing a buyback program to take advantage of the deep discount in its valuation.
Standing tall amid the storm
SL Green is Manhattan's largest office landlord. The REIT owns some of the top office properties in the city, and has leased most of its available space to high-quality tenants under long-term agreements. While some of its tenants struggled to pay rent last year because of the pandemic's impact, most paid on time. Because of that, the REIT generated $562.7 million, or $7.11 per share, in funds from operations (FFO). While that was a bit less than the $605.7 million it produced in 2019, it was $0.11 higher on a per-share basis thanks to the impact of its stock buyback program.
SL Green expects continued pandemic-related headwinds and asset sales to push its FFO per share down to a range of $6.30 to $6.70 in 2021. However, with its stock currently trading at less than $64 a share, it's valued at around 10 times its FFO, which is dirt cheap for a REIT. Because of that, SL Green recently boosted its share buyback program by $500 million to $3.5 billion. To put that buyback program's size into context, SL Green's current market value is less than $4.4 billion. Add in the REIT's 5.7%-yielding dividend -- that it pays monthly and has increased each year for the past decade -- and it's one of the more compelling investment opportunities in the office market these days.
Digging for value in beaten-down sectors
The COVID-19 pandemic had an outsize impact on the energy and commercial real estate markets. Because of that, companies in those sectors lost value last year. However, some were sold off by investors even though their underlying operations were performing reasonably well. Because of that, value investors can find some hidden gems like Kinder Morgan, MPLX, and SL Green Realty that are trading at dirt-cheap levels. Add in their high-yielding dividends, and this trio of value stocks could richly reward investors in the coming years.