Just as we examine companies each week that may be rising past their fair value, we can also find companies potentially trading at bargain prices. While many investors would rather have nothing to do with companies tipping the scales at 52-week lows, I think it makes a lot of sense to determine whether the market has overreacted to the downside, just as we often do when the market reacts to the upside.
Here's a look at three fallen angels trading near their 52-week lows that could be worth buying.
All or nothing
This week I'll start by welcoming a microcap biotechnology company to my CAPS portfolio that I had previously never been fond of in the stem cell sector.
Aastrom Biosciences (NASDAQ:VCEL) has been one of the few exceptions in the biotech sector that hasn't had a great year. Since releasing phase 2 clinical data results on its critical limb ischemia (CLI) drug, ixmyelocel-T, in November 2011, the stock has lost close to half its value. Blame that partly on continued cash burn, as well as the fact that regulations governing the stem cell sector have been restrictive for many years. So much so that, as my Foolish colleague Rich Smith reminded us in May, Geron (NASDAQ:GERN), previously a leading name in stem cell research, completely abandoned its stem cell program last year.
Getting back to Aastrom, what intrigues me is the positive results attributed to its phase 2 trial for CLI. The drug, which is really targeted at the most severe form of peripheral artery disease, works by drawing a patient's stem cells, incubating them at Aastrom's headquarters and spurring adult stem cell growth, and then reinjecting them to promote healing. The phase 2 study showed a 62% reduction in the risk of treatment failure and similar tolerability to the placebo, and, most important, the results were statistically significant not because of chance, but because the treatment pathway worked. Plenty of kinks to work out in phase 3, including funding, but I feel the price is finally right to start looking at Aastrom Biosciences.
Treat this stock like royalty
Most semiconductor companies find themselves at the mercy of the economy or a tech cycle shift every few years, and this has been the year that CEVA (NASDAQ:CEVA), an Israeli-based provider of intellectual property used in 2G and 3G handsets, has felt the pinch.
Nokia (NYSE:NOK), one of CEVA's largest customers, has struggled mightily with its rollout of a new line of smartphones, while also seeing unit sales decline on its lower-margin 2G handsets as a growing set of middle-class consumers in China have put off their purchases in favor of newer 3G technology. With CEVA's bread-and-butter in the past being its 2G royalties, clearly a drop-off in total handset sales is bound to hurt.
What should be kept in perspective is the fact that CEVA has 3G royalties geared toward smartphones and is merely caught in the midst of an industrywide tech cycle transition. Its deals with other vendors outside of Nokia will come into play moving forward and allow its royalty stream to stay consistent. I'd also like to note that CEVA has an incredible $6 in cash per share with no debt on its balance sheet – much of that owing to its minimal cost structure. This is the type of company that should rack up relatively predictable profits in good and bad times and I feel now is the time to treat CEVA like royalty.
Ask your server
The great thing about taking three steps forward and two steps back is that, at some point, you're going to come out ahead. While no investment is a sure thing, I'm beginning to think this statement fits server technology company Super Micro Computer (NASDAQOTH:SMCI) pretty well.
Mainline information technology spending has been weak for about a year now, but at some point large telecoms and big businesses are going to need to step up to improve their infrastructure -- Super Micro could be one of those beneficiaries. But, as a daily double, Super Micro is also a play on the rapidly growing cloud-computing sector. Its cloud-based servers could see rapid growth in big data centers, but, just like in its most recent quarter, it will need to deal with wild hard-drive price swings.
What Super Micro has on its side is a rich history of being profitable and a bare-bones valuation of less than nine times forward earnings. Super Micro will deal with the normal ebb and flow of the tech cycle, but as long as it remains profitable, it should be able to move forward three steps each time.
This week's trio is akin to the turtle versus the hare. Although the hare got off to a quick start, these three companies offer good longer-term potential if you're willing to accept the natural ebb and flow associated with each business.
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Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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