Being a successful value investor isn't simply a matter of buying stocks with low price-to-earnings ratios. Some stocks trade at low prices for a reason and other stocks that may seem overpriced at first glance turn out to be good values due to the underlying companies' growth prospects.
The exact definition of a value stock varies from person to person, and the portfolios of two value investors can be very different, even when both are choosing stocks based on the same basic principles. With that in mind, here are three stocks -- PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP), Kulicke & Soffa Industries (NASDAQ:KLIC), and Time Warner (NYSE:TWX.DL) -- that stand out to our Foolish contributors as great options for the value-obsessed investor.
Andres Cardenal (PepsiCo): Value investing is not necessarily about buying mediocre companies for a dirt-cheap price. Positioning your portfolio in top-quality businesses with rock-solid competitive strengths can be a powerful strategy for superior returns over the long term. In Warren Buffett's own words: "It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price."
PepsiCo is one of the most solid and reliable corporations in the consumer goods sector. The company has a globally diversified portfolio featuring 22 different drinks and snacks brands making over $1 billion each in annual global sales. In addition, its gigantic scale and distribution network set PepsiCo apart from smaller competitors.
PepsiCo reported earnings for the third quarter of 2015 on Tuesday, while foreign currency fluctuations are weighing on financial performance, the business remains fundamentally healthy. Organic revenue grew 7.4% year over year, with global snacks increasing 10% and global beverages jumping 5%. Besides, management raised its earnings guidance for the full year, and PepsiCo is now expecting core earnings per share to increase by 9% in 2015.
The company has a pristine track record of dividend growth, as it has raised dividend payments the last 43 consecutive years. The dividend yield stands at a respectable 3% at current prices, and management plans to distribute nearly $9 billion to shareholders via dividends and buybacks in 2015.
Tim Green (Kulicke & Soffa): Most investors probably aren't familiar with Kulicke & Soffa Industries. The company manufactures equipment used by the semiconductor industry to package integrated circuits, one of the many steps involved in semiconductor manufacturing. Selling semiconductor manufacturing equipment can be a volatile and unpredictable business, and sales can fluctuate wildly -- Kulicke & Soffa recently slashed its sales guidance for the fourth quarter and shares tumbled.
For companies like Kulicke & Soffa, the average results are what matter, and on that basis, the stock looks like a value investor's dream. Part of the appeal is due to Kulicke & Soffa's strong balance sheet, which contains a big pile of cash that the company has built up over the past few years. At the end of the third quarter, Kulicke & Soffa had $476 million of cash and no debt, with cash representing about two-thirds of the company's market capitalization.
Over the past decade, Kulicke & Soffa has produced an average net income of about $50 million. Backing out the net cash, the stock trades for less than five times this number, an incredible bargain if the company can produce the same average net income in the future. There are, of course, some risks involved for investors. Kulicke & Soffa has a dominant market share in a portion of the semiconductor packaging market, wire bonding, but less of a presence in faster-growing areas. An acquisition earlier this year broadened the company's portfolio, but an unexpected shift away from wire bonding would still be bad news for the company.
Kulicke & Soffa is not for the faint of heart, given the company's inconsistent results. But for investors able to stomach the volatility, Kulicke & Soffa offers quite the value opportunity.
Steve Symington (Time Warner): Many media stocks have been hard hit in recent months, and Time Warner (NYSE:TWX.DL) is no exception. Shares of the diversified entertainment giant are down more than 20% from their 52-week-high set in mid-July, and I think the stock looks like a mouth-watering value play trading at 16.9 times trailing 12-month earnings, and 12.6 times next year's estimates. For perspective, revenue last quarter climbed 8% year over year to $7.3 billion, which led to 19.3% growth in adjusted income from continuing operations to $1.045 billion, and -- thanks to Time Warner's ambitious stock repurchase efforts -- a 27.6% increase in adjusted net income per share to $1.25.
And while some investors might balk at Time Warner's net debt of $20.7 billion at the end of last quarter (including $3.1 billion in cash and $23.8 billion in debt), nearly all of that debt is low cost and long term in nature, allowing Time Warner to fund value-creating initiatives like share repurchases and investing in new content. Meanwhile, interest payments on that debt are more than covered by operating income, which grew 15% in Time Warner's most recent quarter to a company-record $1.9 billion.
Many investors rightly worry about the threat to content providers like Time Warner given today's ever-changing media landscape, especially as more consumers dump their traditional pay-TV subscriptions in favor of more affordable streaming options like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Instant Video. But as the proud owner of Warner Bros., HBO, and Turner Broadcasting (which includes leading networks like CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, TBS, and TNT), Time Warner is arguably better positioned than any other company to navigate -- and to handsomely profit from -- whatever new content-driven platform consumers ultimately choose. That's not to mention Time Warner's WB Interactive gaming segment, which has enjoyed incredible growth on the heels of AAA game titles like Batman: Arkham Knight and Mortal Kombat X. What's more, Warner Bros. is reportedly preparing to expand its global influence by producing Chinese language films to capitalize on the burgeoning China box office. In the end, thanks to its industry leadership, content ownership, and potential incremental growth drivers going forward, I'm convinced Time Warner is one of the most compelling values our market has to offer.