The market offers up bargain opportunities every day. We don't always know what the opportunity will be, but finding one will supercharge your portfolio.

Master investor Peter Lynch said that one advantage of running Fidelity Magellan was its charter. It was a capital appreciation fund, giving Lynch the flexibility to buy in any investment situation.

And he took advantage of it! Big or small, constant or cyclical growth, asset plays or turnarounds. You name it, Lynch bought it.

While we should follow his example and look for the best opportunities in any form -- growth stories, turnarounds, misunderstood stocks -- there's one type that can be particularly rewarding.

Limited-time-only sales
The best companies grow steadily year after year, right? Wrong. Great companies have plenty of miscues along the way. But the truly great companiesrecover.

If step one on the road to great returns is to invest in great companies, we have to know what it takes to be great. Read Built to Last or Good to Great by Jim Collins. Read Common Stocks, Uncommon Profits by super-investor Philip Fisher. Another master, Warren Buffett, offers his thoughts in his annual chairman's letters. Read those, too. Trust me; you'll learn what makes a company great.

We'd all be rich if the only thing investors had to do was identify great companies. The second key, as Buffett advocates, is to buy them when they're on sale. And when do they go on sale? When there are problems.

At Inside Value, we know it's difficult to purchase companies surrounded by negativity. But if we can, the market offers the opportunity for big rewards -- if the problems are only temporary.

Here are some recent examples of great companies selling at discount prices for a limited time.

Low Date

Low Price

Recent Price*

Return Off Low

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ)

Aug. 13, 2004




Western Digital (NYSE:WDC)

Aug. 13, 2004





Oct. 22, 2002




All data from Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

87% off
2004 started off as a good year for Hewlett-Packard. In 2003, the company was restructuring to become more cost-competitive with Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and beating earnings in the process. As such, the stock was gaining favor again.

Despite raising guidance for 2004, several patent-infringement lawsuits, as well as continued price erosion on computer hardware, created enough uncertainty to cause some investors to sell.

Fortunately, a strong printer business and effective cost-cutting helped the company beat estimates in August 2004, sending the stock higher. It also didn't hurt that the company doubled its share-buyback program to $2 billion.

192% off
It should be no surprise that hard-disk maker Western Digital's fortune should closely follow the computer industry. But it is a coincidence that HP and Western Digital's lows occurred on the same day.

What drove Western Digital's stock price down? Revenue growth lagged unit growth. It's never comforting to lack pricing power, even as the level of technology is increasing. But such is the nature of this difficult industry, where Western Digital was up against competitors like Seagate Technology (NYSE:STX).

But still, at its low, the company was trading at an enterprise value-to-EBITDA ratio of just more than 4, an historical low for a company with a pretty good balance sheet and a history of growth.

993% off
The promise of deregulated energy markets from 1998 to 2002 had energy companies gobbling up newly available capital to build new, natural gas-fired power plants. As an engineer in GE Power Systems' unit at the time, I can testify that we couldn't sell turbines fast enough to companies like Calpine and the like.

Then access to capital dried up, and Enron's house of cards fell apart, taking down lots of otherwise solid companies with it, like Williams Companies (NYSE:WMB), AES, and TXU. It certainly didn't help that TXU cut its dividend by 80%, saw a slew of securities-fraud lawsuits and an SEC inquiry into the dividend cut, and lowered its 2002 guidance.

But TXU's assets were real and continued to produce cash. The market seemed to overlook the fact that these assets were valuable. Investors who saw the value of the assets were amply rewarded when the market realized its mistake.

Today's sales
Within the market, there are plenty of underappreciated, unloved, and misunderstood businesses. Add the right catalyst, and you've got opportunity.

Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) has plenty of fear and uncertainty surrounding it. Revenue growth has been declining, AMD has come on strong, and Intel is in the midst of restructuring to operate under changing market conditions.

But let's not forget that this is the company where Andy Grove helped create a culture of "only the paranoid survive." I'm guessing they'll find a way to survive and thrive. And it looks like Mr. "Safe and Cheap" himself, Martin Whitman of Third Avenue Value, does too, as does Motley Fool Inside Value advisor/analyst Philip Durell, who recommended the stock to subscribers in the April 2006 issue. Philip believes it's selling for 20% to 30% off.

On sale tomorrow ...
Who will be tomorrow's next big bargain? That's what Philip and the Inside Value team are dedicated to finding out. And their list of candidates is available with a free pass to Inside Value. Click here to learn more.

This article was originally published on June 24, 2005. It has been updated.

Fool editor David Meier does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. Dell is both an Inside Value and a Stock Advisor recommendation. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.