The stock market has seemingly lost all sight of long-term potential for growth businesses lately. Inflation, rising interest rates, a slowdown in consumer spending, and war in Europe have crowded out financial results, and many stocks have been punished.
Such events as this tee up fantastic buying opportunities for investors who can block out the noise and focus on business earnings. With quarterly reports on tap in the coming weeks, three Fool.com contributors think Meta Platforms (META -0.47%), NXP Semiconductor (NXPI 2.07%), and Qualcomm (QCOM 1.37%) are buys right now. Here's why.
Could sentiment get any worse for Meta Platforms?
Billy Duberstein (Meta Platforms): While I don't know what Meta's stock will do after earnings, I do know that it's very cheap on its trailing financial measures, and there's a lot of pessimism in the stock. Revenue growth has slowed due to privacy changes and general ad slowdown. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Meta was facing "one of the worst downturns in recent history," and would be looking to prioritize "more ruthlessly." Topping things off, the company is losing a key executive in former COO Sheryl Sandberg.
However, Meta has come back from big swoons before. Investors once doubted Facebook could transition from a desktop website to a mobile app format -- it did. When competitor Snapchat (SNAP -0.74%) came along, Meta was able to copy certain features on Meta-owned Instagram, retaining users and blunting Snapchat's effect. Given that Meta now has more resources than it did in years prior, one would think it will find a way to fend off new short-form video competitor TikTok. The same goes for finding ways to improve ad targeting in the aftermath of iOS privacy and tracking changes made last year.
Meta recently announced it would be slowing hiring, but will also invest heavily in artificial intelligence capabilities to bolster its short-form video discovery engine. Meta will also be spending $1 billion in payments to creators of high-quality Reels. So, Reels could very well gain on TikTok in the second half if these efforts bear fruit, and I'd expect some commentary on this on the upcoming earnings call.
Meanwhile, the second quarter should be the last in which growth rates will be hampered by comparisons to pre-IDFA quarters. Meta guided for flat revenue growth for the current quarter, and some think growth may even go negative.
However, the IDFA changes were first rolled out in late Q2 2021. In the second half of 2022, Meta will be growing on top of quarters that were also affected by IDFA changes. Therefore, growth rates could look much better in the second half than the current quarter.
Since this quarter could be ugly, is it too early to buy ahead of earnings? Well, the stock has already fallen a lot in anticipation of the current rough quarter. If guidance is better than feared, it could begin to go back up.
No one knows the answer, but for long-term investors, the stock sure looks cheap. Meta trades at 12.4 times earnings, despite a balance sheet with $44 billion in excess cash, and despite spending billions on the metaverse, which isn't generating much revenue yet. While pessimism could stick around beyond the upcoming earnings report, given that valuation, it wouldn't take much for investors to be pleasantly surprised.
The canary in the semiconductor coal mine
Anders Bylund (NXP Semiconductors): Microchip maker NXP Semiconductors may sound like a weird recommendation in this market. The company has a bothersome habit of exceeding Wall Street's revenue targets while falling short of expectations on the bottom line.
Furthermore, the semiconductor industry is knee-deep in an extended shortage of manufacturing capacity. As this shortage cascades down the technology sector's food chain, it affects companies in every industry, from car makers and healthcare providers to food producers and shipping services. Why wouldn't NXP suffer even harsher effects of this shortage, since it's in the epicenter of the central problem?
I agree that the reported data in NXP's second-quarter report on July 25 probably won't look stellar. Your average analyst expects sales to increase by 27% year over year while earnings are supposed to more than double. I'll be downright shocked if NXP delivers the goods on those bullish targets -- and I say that as a longtime shareholder. The market and the infrastructure aren't ready for that type of positive surprise.
But NXP can still inspire a dramatic reversal from the 34% share price plunge in 2022. You see, NXP is a bellwether for the chip sector as a whole, employing a mix of in-house and third-party manufacturing strategies. When the manufacturing shortage ends, NXP should be one of the first bearers of that long-awaited message.
The pre-earnings-season rumor mill has hinted that better times may be here before year's-end. Key suppliers in this space are investing billions of dollars in new or upgraded manufacturing facilities. Consumer spending is slowing down due to the inflation crunch, which reduces the pressure to deliver mountains of shelf-ready electronic products.
In fact, market intelligence firm TrendForce reports that a flurry of order cancellations across a wide variety of hardware production sectors will give chip-making factories as much as 10% unused capacity toward the end of 2022. That's up from essentially no spare capacity at all a few months ago.
NXP's stock has fallen more than 35% below its 52-week highs and trades at the modest valuation of 19 times earnings and 15 times free cash flows today. I can't promise that the upcoming earnings report will send NXP shares to the moon, but it's a sensible investment for the long haul and the report may very well make it more expensive. It can't hurt to pick up a few shares on the cheap before that potentially market-moving event.
Mobile chips could fare far better than feared
Nicholas Rossolillo (Qualcomm): The market is punishing all semiconductor stocks on fears of slowing consumer spending on tech devices. However, not all chip stocks have the same level of exposure to consumer electronics.
Qualcomm historically is highly reliant on consumer spending. It's been diversifying its chips and is making fast inroads in the industrial Internet of Things and automotive markets, but roughly 80% of its sales are tied to smartphones and other mobile devices. With semiconductor peers like Micron Technology (MU 4.02%) indicating there's excess inventory of consumer electronics on the market right now, the worry is that Qualcomm's growth momentum the last couple of years will come to a screeching halt.
Due to these concerns, Qualcomm stock is down 24% so far in 2022 and down 31% from its all-time high reached late last year.
I think the market is missing the mark in its assessment of Qualcomm, though. Much of this slowdown in consumer spend has to do with PCs and laptops after a two-year run on electronics to get up to speed with remote work demand. While smartphone demand will likely be lower than originally expected as 2022 grinds on, many households have yet to upgrade to a 5G mobile network-ready device. This is a multi-year tailwind for Qualcomm, as 5G is still early in development in most markets around the globe.
Additionally, reports indicate that Apple's efforts to develop its own circuitry to cut Qualcomm out of its iPhone business might have failed -- as my colleague Billy Duberstein wrote about a few weeks ago. In other words, Qualcomm's prior forecasts of declining Apple revenue might now be in need of an upward revision.
Either way, Qualcomm is highly likely to remain in expansion mode the rest of 2022 (guidance for the current quarter was for 35% year-over-year revenue growth). Highly profitable and returning excess cash to shareholders via a dividend and stock repurchases, Qualcomm looks like a steal right now ahead of its next earnings report -- which should be out late in July or early August. Shares currently trade for just 22 times trailing-12-month free cash flow.