Most investors are familiar with the adage: "Buy low, sell high." However, in reality it's often difficult to buy a beaten down stock when everyone else seems to be running for the hills. Nevertheless, this can be a very rewarding strategy for patient investors. Below, the Motley Fool's contributors explain why Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), IBM (NYSE:IBM), and ARM Holdings (NASDAQ:ARMH) are three tech stocks poised to make a serious comeback in the quarters ahead.
Down but not out
Anders Bylund: It may seem weird to call Intel an underdog, but that's what the chip giant has become in recent years. On one side, the rise of tablets and smartphones supposedly killed the PC. On the other, mobile chips based on ARM Holdings designs might infiltrate Intel's stronghold in the data center as well, since modern IT managers are looking for many of the features that smartphone designers requested years ago.
These worries took a shocking turn in 2012, when the one-two punch of tablets and rival server solutions seemed certain to destroy Intel in the long run. Intel shares fell more than 25% in less than 6 months, and that's where the underdog story begins. It's also where I opened my own Intel position, because the rumors of Intel's death were clearly exaggerated. And they still are.
If ARM and its army of allies ever make a dent in Intel's server chip position, it won't be an overnight revolution. The process would take years, giving Intel investors plenty of time to reconsider. And since the alleged revolution really hasn't started yet, it's not moving my Intel shares either.
The "death of the PC" meme is another premature conclusion. Falling PC systems sales have already stabilized, while tablet sales may have peaked already. Corporate buyers will always need PC systems to get serious work done, and consumers are coming back to the old designs as well.
The doom-and-gloom forecasts are turning out inaccurate, as I expected from my 2012 vantage. On top of that, Intel is pouring $4.3 billion a year into new chip-building facilities -- an investment that's aimed at next-generation growth markets like the Internet of Things.
So this underdog is fighting back. Intel shares have risen a market-crushing 40% over the last year, and the comeback is still going on.
Tim Brugger: IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has had an uphill battle since taking the helm nearly three years ago. Like many, including what has become IBM competitor Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Rometty's predecessor was slow to transition from its outdated PC-reliant business. In Rometty's defense, shifting the focus of an industry stalwart the size of IBM, with its decades-long conservative culture, is akin to an ocean liner trying to pull off a U-turn.
Regardless, it's become apparent investors are running out of patience. IBM's Q3 earnings report, announced on Oct. 20, was littered with negativity. Revenues decreased 4% compared to last year, margins were down, and not surprisingly given IBM's poor topline results, earnings-per-share dropped as well. Doesn't sound like a stock worth keeping an eye on: at first glance. But a closer look at IBM, particularly after its nearly 12% share price free-fall since its earnings announcement, makes it worth keeping on the radar.
Tucked away in IBM's latest earnings was its "strategic imperatives" revenues. These are the business units that IBM's new direction is targeting, and include cloud services, business intelligence, or BI, big data, and mobile. Cloud revenues in particular were strong last quarter, up over 50% compared to IBM"s 2013 Q3, and now boasts an annual run rate over $3 billion: that's industry-leading Microsoft territory. Business analytics, which includes big data, was up 8%, and mobile revenues more than doubled.
Unlike Microsoft, IBM has yet to regain the confidence of investors that it can, and will, successfully transition to its strategic imperatives: and therein lies the opportunity. For disciplined investors looking for long-term growth, IBM is a steal right now, despite showing signs of life in its key business units. And IBM's 2.73% dividend yield will help shareholders bide their time as Rometty rights the ship.
Tamara Walsh: ARM Holdings is getting killed this year. The stock is down more than 22% year-to-date today with shares trading around $42 a pop. However, I believe this underdog will outperform the market in the quarters ahead thanks to a combination of catalysts including new deals with chip customers, promising revenue growth drivers, and new applications for its technology outside of mobile.
ARM Holdings designs microprocessors and then licenses and sells the technology to electronics manufacturers around the world. While this is a lucrative business, the company has struggled recently because of a slow down in the smartphone and tablet market. In fact, investors pushed the stock down as much as 8% in a single session last month after the tech company announced disappointing third-quarter results.
The stock is currently trading 24% below its 52-week high range as a result. Yet, as others run for the exit this creates an excellent buying opportunity for patient investors. The company boasts a reliable revenue stream thanks to its business model of selling licenses and later collecting royalty fees on chips using ARM's technology. And despite the pullback in these shares, ARM remains a dominant player in the mobile space.
Its technology, after all, can be found in most mobile processors today. ARM Holdings is therefore well positioned to benefit from both higher-end smartphones as well as a surge in connected devices within the burgeoning Internet of Things space.
On top of this, ARM's technology is now being used across a range of industries outside of mobile. From customers developing ARM-based chips for use in automotive infotainment systems and carrier networks to TVs and enterprise networking equipment, ARM Holdings has a long runway of growth ahead of it. Ultimately, these segments should fuel earnings growth for ARM down the road.
Anders Bylund owns shares of Intel. Tamara Rutter owns shares of Microsoft. Tim Brugger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel, International Business Machines, and Microsoft. 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.