Call me old-fashioned or risk-averse if you like, but when push comes to shove, I'm a tried and true value investor.
When looking for my next purchase, there's nothing I love more than finding an unloved, underappreciated, and undervalued company that's been cast aside and that most Wall Street analysts would classify as a contrarian investment. In other words, I like to do things the hard way -- what can I say?
This means when I'm scouting for my next stock, I'll occasionally see a price-to-earnings ratio north of 50 and immediately click the back button, scared to see what might be behind that lofty valuation. Sometimes, though, this isn't the smartest thing to do. As Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner has mentioned previously, "overvalued" can be a shell term. Stocks are often priced aggressively because they hold a market edge over their peers, or they could be the first of their kind when it comes to innovation within a particular sector, meaning that valuation is well deserved. You can find a full list of David's research criteria here.
So today, I'm got to step out of my comfort zone and share with you five stocks that would be "overvalued" by common fundamental considerations but that I would consider buying right now.
For my consideration, I ran a screen using research tool Finviz of companies with a market cap of larger than $300 million and P/E ratios in excess of 100. Out of the 147 companies that met my criteria, here are the five I would consider buying.
Amazon.com (AMZN 3.58%) -- current P/E: 1,349
No company has made a habit of stumping value investors for a longer period of time than e-tailer Amazon.com. If there's anything I've learned over the years, it's that it's never a great idea to bet against Amazon.com, because it's a leader in its field when it comes to convenience. Amazon is able to grab potential showroom customers from bricks-and-mortar retailers and offer them at-home delivery with a price that often undercuts B&M stores.
In addition to its enormous marketplace platform, it also is a cloud-computing juggernaut, with its EC2 virtual data center and S3 storage farm being the models by which other companies base their cloud platform.
Finally, Amazon is spreading its wings in the content arena by attempting to rival Netflix with its own streaming library of movies. With its large following of established and loyal customers, as well as trailing 12-month operating cash flow of $4.98 billion which is up 48% over the previous year, I can easily overlook its astronomical P/E and see plenty of ongoing growth potential.
Orange (ORAN 1.29%) -- current P/E: 174
Yeah, go ahead and ring the bias alert bell, because I already own shares of overseas telecommunications service provider Orange in my portfolio, and I'm seriously thinking about buying more.
Orange has struggled under the weight of European austerity measures, which have hurt its ability to grow in Western Europe, its largest market, while it's also contended with the emergence of low-cost wireless carrier Free Mobile in France.
What's attracted me to Orange is its push into emerging markets such as sub-Saharan Africa, where its growth rate has consistently remained in the double digits, and whose market penetration is still microscopic, all things considered. Another case in point: Many of Orange's products are inelastic in nature, meaning you may see a few cancellations because of an economic downturn, but few people are willing to go without their phone, leaving Orange little need to match discounts with its peers.
Orange is also a cash-flow king that pays a premium dividend to boot. Over the trailing 12-month period, Orange has generated almost $4.1 billion in free cash flow, which helps it expand its infrastructure without dipping deeper into debt. It also allows for a dividend, which should equate to nearly 8%, or more, by the time the year is up!
eHealth (EHTH 5.42%) -- current P/E: 154
When do Obamacare's woes spell big profits? When you're the premier and most visible private individual and small-business insurance platform around!
The allure of eHealth is that the ongoing problems with federally run Obamacare website Healthcare.gov aren't going to be fixed anytime soon, leaving consumers with the only logical option of going to a private platform like eHealth to do their comparative insurance shopping. eHealth has been operating its private platform for years, so consumers don't have to worry about whether it'll work, and eHealth could even offer a direct-to-insurer pathway should Healthcare.gov eventually be bypassed by consumers altogether.
eHealth's current P/E of 154 also becomes a bit more manageable when you realize that it's projected to grow by 18% annually over the next five years. It appears overvalued on the surface, but it's sitting in the health insurance sweet spot now more than ever!
Sohu.com (SOHU 7.52%) -- current P/E: 987
I'll admit that this nearly four-digit P/E comes with a bit of an asterisk, as China-based Sohu.com was forced to take a number of one-time charges in its third-quarter report related to Tencent's investment in search engine Sogou.com, but that doesn't change the fact that Sohu is one of the few Chinese investments I'd suggest digger deeper into at the moment.
The most intriguing growth aspect here is Sogou, China's third-largest search engine, which currently controls 5.5% of the market share. Even with such a small market share, there's incredible potential in China's search market, such that Sohu recorded a 53% increase in year-over-year revenue from its search engine in its most recent quarter.
Gaming is another big growth driver in China, with gaming revenue up 7% in its latest quarter. Obviously, gaming revenue can ebb-and-flow a bit as we've seen with all China-based online gaming companies, but the general trend as the middle class in China grows is that more and more young adults will pay for what's relatively cheap entertainment in the form of online gaming.
With its monstrous pile of cash on hand ($1 billion net, which comprises about 40% of its current market value), I think there's more than meets the fundamental eye when it comes to Sohu!
Qiagen (QGEN 4.01%) -- current P/E: 118
Last, but certainly not least, is sample and assay technologies provider Qiagen. It's not hard to understand why Qiagen's bottom line has been under pressure, as austerity measures in Europe and tighter government spending in the U.S. have crunched university and corporate budgets that help pay for Qiagen's diagnostic tests.
However, Qiagen also could be at the leading edge of what I suspect is a revolutionary new approach to cancer treatment -- namely, diagnostic personalization. Although a cancer cure may be nowhere in sight as of yet, cancer-based diagnostic tests offer the potential to narrow treatment options to a best-case scenario rather than leaving doctors to guess what treatment method might be best. In other words, I believe we're on the cusp of a diagnostics boom like we've never seen before.
I would suggest ignoring this inflated P/E and focus on the long term, which looks bright for Qiagen.