Just as we examine companies each week that may be rising past their fair value, we can also find companies trading at what may be bargain prices. While many investors would rather have nothing to do with companies wallowing at 52-week lows, I think it makes a lot of sense to determine whether the market has over-reacted to a company's bad news, just as we often do when the market reacts to good news.
Here's a look at three fallen angels trading near their 52-week lows that could be worth buying.
Bargains on the Boardwalk
Last year was rough from the standpoint of natural-gas drillers and midstream companies, with many seeing investors cycle out of traditionally strong cash flow and commodity-based businesses in favor of higher-growth sectors like technology and health care. The result was a nearly across-the-board underperformance for energy stocks. One that looks particularly intriguing following this slump is midstream pipeline and storage provider Boardwalk Pipeline Partners (NYSE:BWP).
Two reasons why Boardwalk Pipeline Partners is so attractive is the combination of a tightened spread between West Texas Intermediate crude and Brent crude and a growing reliance on domestic production from the Obama administration. A shrinking crude spread entices oil and gas drillers to keep their production within the U.S., helping to boost transport and storage demand for Boardwalk, which has pipeline connections to the Barnett, Haynesville, Woodford, Fayetteville, and Eagle Ford shale formations. Similarly, the Obama administration's push toward lessening its reliance on foreign oil will assure consistent cash flow for years to come for Boardwalk.
Another factor that makes Boardwalk attractive is its superior dividend history. Between 2006 and 2012 the company raised its quarterly payout 25 consecutive times, only to be derailed by a huge gap between WTI and Brent prices, which kept its dividend flat. With that gap basically closed, Boardwalk will be able to focus on improving shareholder value through dividend increases once again. Based on its projected payouts, Boardwalk is set to pay shareholders a nearly 9% yield!
Finally, Boardwalk is also humble enough to look for mutually beneficial partnerships. In May Boardwalk formed a joint venture with Williams (NYSE:WMB) to create a network of pipelines, known as the Bluegrass pipeline, to the Utica and Marcellus shale regions of the Northeast with the expressed purpose of encouraging drillers to recover more natural-gas liquids.
With heavy investments ongoing in the pipeline and storage infrastructure, Boardwalk looks like an under-the-radar winner.
An optimistic buzz
It's hard to believe that with nearly all beer, wine, and spirit producers outperforming the market, one is just fractionally off a 52-week low -- but that is the case with Compania Cervecerias Unidas (NYSE:CCU), also known as CCU.
CCU is a beer and wine distributor in Chile, as well as Uruguay and Argentina. The obvious advantage of distributing wholly owned and licensed products in these regions is that most are still in the "emerging market" status. This means these economies can grow independently even if the most prominent regions of the world are in recession.
Another advantage to CCU is the fact that recessions tend to have only a minimal impact on beer and spirit distributors. There are few consumer products outside of basic necessities that can maintain their pricing power during a recession, but beer and liquor are two of those products. This means CCU and its shareholders can count on relatively consistent cash flow, which helps the company plan out its annual capital expenditures.
But, more than anything, CCU's recent 35% trailing 52-week drop could represent the perfect buying opportunity for a larger brewery or distillery looking to extend its reach into South America. Consolidation in the beer and spirits industry has been high over the past two years, with Constellation Brands agreeing to purchase the previously remaining unowned stake in Grupo Modelo's U.S. operations, and Suntory agreeing to buy Beam (UNKNOWN:BEAM.DL) last week for $13.6 billion, creating the world's third-largest spirits-maker. These acquisitions help larger beer and spirit companies temporarily escape their mid-single-digit growth range and add diversity where none may previously have existed. CCU could very easily enhance quite a few product portfolios out there, and I would certainly consider the idea of it being a dangling carrot at just a $3.8 billion valuation.
A smoking hot opportunity
Warning: This last pick is not for you socially conscious investors.
This final selection goes to international tobacco-products maker Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM), which finds itself roughly $1 away from a fresh 52-week low. The primary reason Philip Morris has struggled is a reduction in cigarette volume shipped, which can be traced to black-market cigarette infiltration in the Philippines and more stringent tobacco laws in Australia and other countries around the world.
Despite this shipment reduction -- which totaled 5.7% overall and 4.1% with the Philippines excluded -- Philip Morris International still managed to boost its adjusted earnings by 9% in the latest quarter and delivered what was essentially flat revenue despite the 5.7% shipment volume reduction. What this tells me is that Philip Morris has incredible pricing power in that it can pass along price hikes to consumers to make up the lost ground from lower tobacco-product shipments.
Another factor to consider here is that, unlike its U.S. counterparts, Philip Morris operates in dozens of countries around the globe. Although it will deal with black-market situations and tougher tobacco laws in certain countries, other rapidly growing regions with a burgeoning middle class of smokers, such as China and India, offer more than enough growth potential to balance out countries where growth may stagnate.
Lastly, when we're talking about Philip Morris, we're talking about a cash flow cow. Tobacco products are generally addictive, which means the company and shareholders can count on consistent cash flow. This cash flow is what allows Philip Morris to pay out its currently premium yield of 4.5%. With the company focused on shareholder-boosting programs, including further dividend hikes and share repurchases, I'd suggest that this dip could be an opportunity to buy.
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.
The Motley Fool owns shares of Philip Morris International, and recommends Beam and Compania Cervecerias Unidas. 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.