It's been a tough year for tech stocks in general, which often means good stocks are swept up in the negativity, despite their relatively solid performance. With that in mind, we asked three of our Foolish contributors to pick a stock that's found itself on the wrong side of the market through no fault of its own.
Though IBM (NYSE:IBM), Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), and Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) don't necessarily play in the same tech sandbox, they share one thing in common: Each stock has been unfairly beaten to a pulp. That should be music to the ears of long-term, value investors.
Tim Brugger (IBM): Down about 25% the past 12 months, IBM is a beaten-down stock. Whether IBM's share-price decline is fair or not isn't quite so cut and dried. For investors who still view IBM as a PC-dependent hardware and software services provider, its precipitous decline may seem warranted.
However, CEO Ginni Rometty, in concert with many of the company's peers, is moving IBM in a new direction, as evidenced by the focus on her "strategic imperatives" initiatives. IBM's transition to Big Data and analytics, along with cloud computing solutions, is what should determine its relative value, and on those fronts, its sell-off is woefully unjust.
Adjusting for currency, IBM's cloud revenue jumped more than 70% last quarter, and with an annual run rate of $4.5 billion and growing, it has quickly moved up the list of top providers. But IBM was hesitant to provide big data-specific sales results, though as part of its business analytics unit -- another key piece of Rometty's strategic imperatives -- it helped drive a more than 20% increase in sales, factoring in currency headwinds.
IBM's Big Data wins are mounting in a hurry, both in its Watson Health-specific unit and in a myriad of other industries. And in what is expected to become a $38 billion industry this year and climb to nearly $100 billion in just 10 years, jumping ahead of the Big Data pack now will pay huge dividends going forward. Speaking of dividends, IBM's 3.67% yield puts it at, or near, the top of its sector.
When investors stop looking at IBM as reliant on PCs and begin to see it for what it is -- a bellwether in the midst of a significant, successful transition -- it's evident that the negativity surrounding Big Blue's stock price isn't justified -- though it does make for a great growth and income investment opportunity.
Brian Stoffel (Baidu): Shares of Baidu, parent company of China's largest Internet search engine, are down 40% this year. The stock's collapse is the result of fears over a faltering Chinese economy and wariness of the company's heavy investment in online-to-offline, or O2O, technologies.
Let's tackle the Chinese economy first. It's no surprise that the country's economy is slowing somewhat -- that's what happens to maturing economies. But while that may mean that some business will slow, I think the market is overestimating the damage to Baidu.
As it is, only 46% of the country's population has regular access to the Internet. That means there are still 750 million Chinese citizens yet to come online. With the company's dominant position in both desktop and mobile search, these new users will most likely be using Baidu on a regular basis.
Further, I believe the market is underappreciating the potential in O2O. In America, if we want to buy movie tickets, we either use a mobile app or use Google to find a theater, and then we buy the tickets on the theater's website. Baidu, realizing what Google missed out on in America, wants a piece of that action. It is developing technologies to enable it to take a cut of such transactions, while helping local business transition to a mobile-based economy.
Baidu CEO Robin Li is equally surprised that investors aren't seeing the big picture. He openly wondered a few weeks back if the company would be better off delisting its shares it America and relisting in the Middle Kingdom -- where investors presumably are more familiar with the company.
Dan Caplinger (Qualcomm): In the tech industry, chipmaker Qualcomm has come a long way in recent years, wresting the leadership role in the industry away from its competitors based largely on its strength in the mobile-device market. Shareholders have shied away from the stock, though, based on the difficulty it's had with rivals selling cheaper components, as well as customers moving to in-house production of chip designs.
Yet much of the value that Qualcomm has lies in the intellectual property it commands. With a huge portfolio of patents, Qualcomm is able to count on a steady stream of high-margin licensing revenue that's likely to continue to grow over time. Even though much of Qualcomm's intellectual property covers designs that are outdated by developed-market standards, the fact that much of the emerging-market world is still playing catch-up gives the tech company a chance to capture more licensing proceeds well into the future.
The Internet of Things also represents a big opportunity for Qualcomm, with rising demand for lower-end chips to allow connectivity among various electronic devices. With limitless applications, the IoT could allow Qualcomm to focus less on smartphones and more on improving all of its business, and that would be good news for shareholders over the long run.