By now, you must already have your list of potential studs and duds ready for this NFL season. But have you ever tried doing something similar with stocks, using your analytical skills to figure out which ones could win, or lose as a new season, or month begins?
That could be a good thing to do. I'm interested in studs, and some stocks with great value look so compelling right now that I think September could be a great month to add them to your roster. Without wasting time, take a quick look at two agricultural stocks that I think deserve a spot this month.
Seeds of opportunity
August was a very quiet month for seed giant Monsanto (NYSE:MON), with the stock just managing to cross over to positive territory. I have good reasons to believe that Monsanto stock will hold up stronger this month and over the long term.
After a solid planting season in the U.S., which helped the company's seed sales grow 7% year over year for the nine months ending May 31, Monsanto is poised to benefit from the Latin American primary crop planting season which will kick off in some days' time.
Lady Luck has shone bright on Monsanto lately. In June, the company's next-generation Intacta RR2 PRO soybeans trait were cleared for commercial launch in Brazil, giving Monsanto a huge boost heading into the upcoming planting season. Monsanto considers Intacta a 100-million acre opportunity, so you can well imagine how significant Intacta could prove to Monsanto's growth in the future.
For those who think DuPont (NYSE:DD) is spreading its wings as fast in the southern hemisphere, here is a fact to consider: While DuPont owns 10% of Brazil's soybeans market, nearly all the rest of it is in Monsanto's hands. With Intacta, Monsanto is making sure it stays at the forefront for years to come.
At 21 times earnings, Monsanto stock may appear pricey, especially when DuPont is trading at a P/E of just 12. But I think Monsanto deserves its premium valuation, considering the compelling Latin American growth story. Monsanto's earnings per share are likely to grow beyond a 20% clip for the year. The company also raised its dividends by 15% last month, and currently yields 1.8%. A buyback program is already under way since July 1.
Best of all, Monsanto generated a massive free cash flow of over $2 billion in the past twelve months. I am watching this one closely.
It may sound crazy, but...
The second company I like also sells seeds, but is an even bigger play in the fertilizer industry. You may call me crazy for remaining bullish on Agrium (NYSE:AGU) after the recent fiasco in the potash industry, but you must also know that Agrium can act as a great defensive bet even in the potash space amid all the chaos.
Since Agrium holds a berth in the potash cartel Canpotex together with Potash Corp (NYSE:POT) and Mosaic (NYSE:MOS), it cannot escape the uncertainties that have surfaced following the abrupt break down of the other cartel between Russia's Uralkali and Belarus' Belaruskali.
Truly speaking, Agrium has little to do with potash -- Only 4% of its total sales last year came from the nutrient. Comparatively, PotashCorp and Mosaic derived 41% and 30% , respectively, of their net sales in 2012 from potash.
It's true that Agrium has a major potash expansion program under way that will increase its annual capacity by a whopping 50%, but the project will not go online until the end of 2014 . That's pretty far away. By then, the potash market's dynamics may have changed completely, and it is nearly impossible to predict if things will go against or in favor of Agrium. Meanwhile, Agrium is likely to be least hurt among peers by any intermittent shocks in the industry.
More importantly, with nearly 70% of its sales coming from seeds, herbicides, and crop protection products, Agrium can tide over challenges like volatile fertilizer prices. A growing global presence also helps. Agrium made its way into Brazil market last year by acquiring Utilfertil, and already had a joint venture in Argentina since 1998. So like Monsanto, the approaching planting season in Latin America should bring good news for Agrium.
Furthermore, Agrium will likely take over Viterra's Canadian agri-products retail business this month after acquiring its facilities in Australia recently. Clearly, the company is on a solid growth trajectory, and the near-term headwinds already seem baked into its stock price.
In fact, at 9 times earnings, Agrium is surprisingly cheaper than both PotashCorp and Mosaic, which are trading at a P/E of 11.6 and 9.6, respectively. I also wrote about Agrium's diligent capital allocation policies some time back, including why investors can expect greater dividends from the company in the future. Agrium's dividend has already grown at a staggering 1,700% clip in the past two years. That certainly makes the stock's case stronger, and worthy of attention this month.
I'd advise you not to lose sight of these two stocks in the NFL frenzy. Happy watching!
Fool contributor Neha Chamaria has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.