At The Motley Fool, we poke plenty of fun at Wall Street analysts and their endless cycle of upgrades, downgrades, and "initiating coverage at neutral." So you might think we'd be the last people to give virtual ink to such "news." And we would be -- if that were all we were doing.
But in "This Just In," we don't simply tell you what the analysts said. We'll also show you whether they know what they're talking about. To help, we've enlisted Motley Fool CAPS, our tool for rating stocks and analysts alike. With CAPS, we track the long-term performance of Wall Street's best and brightest -- and its worst and sorriest, too.
And speaking of the best ...
Enough already. Enough with the volcanic ash. Enough with the tumbling euro. And most importantly, enough with the ever-sinking price of travel company priceline.com
According to All-Star analyst KeyBanc Capital Markets, the selling on this stock has gotten quite overdone, and the pessimism has reached unrealistic levels. Citing a 27% "pullback" in the share price over the past month, KeyBanc argued forcefully this morning that the sell-off has handed investors a gold-plated opportunity "to own a high quality, market share leading growth company" at a bargain price.
KeyBanc does acknowledge the existence of "near-term challenges ... primarily related to concerns in Europe." Yet the analyst reminds investors to focus not on the short-term difficulties, but rather on priceline's "exceptional execution over the past several years" and its "powerful" growth prospects in the future. After all, priceline.com literally doubled its net profit last quarter. If the company's future bears any resemblance to its past, KeyBanc predicts investors today "will likely be handsomely rewarded from these levels."
I agree, but not just because KeyBanc is one of the best analysts on the planet, although that's a pretty "key" indicator right there. Nearly 60% of KeyBanc's picks outperform the S&P 500, and the analyst ranks in the top 2% of investors we track on Motley Fool CAPS.
The priceline is right
KeyBanc's record aside, today's pick of priceline.com just feels right. Maybe I'm biased in the stock's favor; priceline.com ranks as my own personal all-time best recommendation on CAPS. But to me, priceline at 20 times earnings looks a heckuvalot cheaper than the alternatives in the international online travel space.
Speaking of growth, we see suggestions of strength popping up all across priceline's bread-and-butter travel industry. Airlines such as AMR Corp., Continental, and Ryanair are looking healthier than they have in years, and Boeing
Now, mind you, unlike KeyBanc, I'm not yet "pounding the table" on priceline. Unlike in years past, the company currently lacks the huge disconnect between net income, which everyone focuses on, and the free cash flowing behind the scenes on its cash flow statement. With free cash flow only a skosh higher than reported income, I don't see a whole lot of overlooked value in the stock. (Not enough to get me too excited about the stock again, in any case.)
But I do agree with KeyBanc that the selling has been overdone on this one, and has finally pushed priceline.com back to a price at which it's worth owning. While I, personally, intend to hold out for an even bigger discount before buying, I do so in full knowledge that I may "miss the plane" if priceline takes off sooner than I expect.
But what do you think? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 467 out of more than 165,000 members. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.