In my recurring Fool column, "Get Ready for the Bounce," we search for future winners in a pile of 52-week losers. But do we really need to sit around for a whole year, waiting for a fallen stock to bounce back?
Nope. Sometimes stocks fall hard, in far less time than a year. And like a superball dropped from the balcony, the harder they fall, the higher they bounce. Today, we'll look at a few equities that've suffered dramatic drops over the past week. With a little help from the 170,000 members of Motley Fool CAPS, we hope to find an opportunity or two for you:
How Far From 52-Week High?
(out of 5)
National Bank of Greece
Bank of Ireland
Allied Irish Banks
Companies are selected by screening on finviz.com for abrupt 5% or greater price drops over the past week. 52-week high and recent price data provided by finviz.com. CAPS ratings from Motley Fool CAPS.
Five super falls -- one superball
There's no two ways about it. If you owned any of the five stocks named above last week, you're significantly poorer for it today. Let's start off with the biggest story of the week:
Last month, I quoted CAPS member aordinaryguy on the subject of persistently bullish sentiment for Allied Irish Banks. Said he: "This bank will either get nationalized (and a complete loser) or come back strong and be a multibagger. I'm betting on the too big to fail multibagger scenario ..."
As it turned out, the former scenario was the correct one, as Ireland will step in to save Allied Irish Banks from default, injecting 3.7 billion euros of capital to stabilize the institution and raising taxpayers' stake in the bank to 93% from 19% -- de facto nationalization. That's having knock-on effects both near (Bank of Ireland) and far (National Bank of Greece), because everywhere you look, investors are dialing up the risk ratings on shaky European financial institutions.
In other news, eBay took a shellacking when its Skype subsidiary suffered an outage and promised to refund customers for their downtime. (But wait! You mean some people actually pay for Skype? Seems to me, the more money eBay has to refund, the more paying customers it actually has -- and perhaps the better the news for shareholders ... ) In any case, eBay plans to let go of Skype in an IPO soon, which should limit the long-term effects on the parent company.
Last but not least, Infinera got whacked for ... honestly, I'm not sure why. Searching the newsfeeds, there doesn't seem to be any reason behind investors' sell-off of Infinera shares last week. No news at all, in fact. Meanwhile, CAPS members continue to give it a big thumbs-up and a five-star rating. Could this be a buying opportunity?
The bull case for Infinera
A lot of Fools seem to think so. (Heck, it's even a multi-recommendation from Motley Fool Rule Breakers and Motley Fool Options.) CAPS All-Star RLBOWERSOX praises Infinera's "highly acclaimed and unique technology" for speeding data along the Internet. Fellow All-Star alfred13 agrees that Infinera has "built a better mouse-trap" than rivals', which include what Cisco
Meanwhile, 4Foolz is attracted by the company's "razor/blade product set. Its a long term winner ... assuming no better technology comes around."
And of course, I'm all in favor of unique high-tech mousetraps. Still, I notice that when it comes to discussions of Infinera, bulls tend to be long on predictions and praise, but short on numbers to back up why they think these will translate into profit. I mean, might Alcatel or Cisco buy out Infinera to acquire its supposedly superior technology? Sure they could. But if they don't, we need to make sure that Infinera can perform equally well as an investment all on its lonesome.
That, unfortunately, is where I fear the bull case for Infinera breaks down. Now don't get me wrong -- Infinera's not all bad. For example, unlike many unprofitable companies (Infinera has only ended the year in the black once in the past five years), it doesn't have runaway capital spending eating all its profit. Rather, capex has remained remarkably constant at roughly $20 million annually for the past five years. Would that I could say the same about cash flow, however ...
Cash flow, you see, is exceedingly bumpy at Infinera -- positive one year, then significantly negative the next. Right now the company's at more or less break-even free cash flow, with $1.5 million generated over the past 12 months. (By the way: Kudos.) But over the past five years, free cash flow has more often run the other way, as Infinera averaged an annual cash burn-rate of roughly $40 million per year.
With more than $270 million in the bank, and no debt to offset, Infinera has plenty of cash to fund its operations for the foreseeable future -- heck, if it can generate positive free cash flow, as it now seems intent on doing, maybe Fools are right to be rating this stock a significant long-term outperformer.
From my perspective, though, a million or so in free cash flow still isn't good enough to justify the billion-dollar market cap. I need to see some significant improvement on the cash flow statement before I'll be prepared to call this one a bounce candidate.
(But that's just my opinion -- I could be wrong. If you have a different opinion of the company, here's your chance to tell us about it. Click over to Motley Fool CAPS and sound off.)