After Wall Street's recent round of panic, many stocks are available at once-in-a-lifetime, bargain-basement prices.

But even in the midst of that market-wide sale, there are a small handful of companies available at even steeper discounts -- you just have to look beyond obvious metrics like P/E and market cap.

Hidden by accounting
The problem with metrics like the price-to-earnings ratio is that what a company reports as its earnings doesn't necessarily have anything to do with how well its business is operating. For instance, one of the easiest ways to boost short-term profits is to cut research and development, even though doing so can have a devastating long-term effect on a company. On the flip side, the cost of capital improvements gets written off over a stretch of years, and as a result, a company's earnings report still shows the hurt long after it writes the check.

In many cases, a company's true earning power is hidden by accounting. Instead of looking at earnings, you want to look at how well a business generates cold, hard cash -- its free cash flow. How do you find it? Just subtract capital expenditures from the cash flow from operations.

Unlike earnings, cash can be spent to expand a business, paid to shareholders in the form of a dividend, used to retire debt, or used to shore up a company's balance sheet during an economic storm. When a company's free cash flow is higher than its earnings, that's a sign that the true business is healthier than it appears.

Capitalization counts
Imagine two companies, each trading at the same multiple of cash-generating power, and each expected to grow at the same rate. Which would you rather own: the one with $2 billion in cash, or the one with $2 billion in debt and a need to routinely tap a line of credit just to make payroll?

Especially in today's credit-constrained market, cash is king.

But even beyond this temporary crisis of financing, a company's enterprise value is a better measure of a company's worth than its market value is. That's because the enterprise value tells you what you'd have to pay to buy the company outright -- including its cash and its debt.

When that enterprise value is less than its market value, it means that the company has more cash than debt -- and any investment you make in the company, from buying a few shares to buying the company outright, gets you a stake in that net cash hoard.

Unearth hidden values
If you can find a company that has both higher cash flow than earnings and a lower enterprise value than its market cap, you've found one that's truly cheaper than it appears.

The following list of companies not only meets those criteria, but each one trades at an enterprise value-to-free cash flow ratio of less than 10:


Enterprise Value
(in Millions)

Market Cap
(in Millions)

Free Cash Flow
(in Millions)

Net Income
(in Millions)

EV/FCF Ratio

Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO)






Texas Instruments (NYSE:TXN)






Accenture (NYSE:ACN)






Altria (NYSE:MO)






Fluor (NYSE:FLR)






Jacobs Engineering (NYSE:JEC)












Those are bargain valuations for companies that have the financial wherewithal to make it through this market alive.

It's no wonder that bargain hunters like those of us at Motley Fool Inside Value are so excited about the incredible opportunities today's market is offering us. If you're ready to own companies that are both financially stronger and available more cheaply than a casual glance would indicate, then join us today. To learn more or to start your 30-day free trial, click here.

At the time of publication, Fool contributor and Motley Fool Inside Value team member Chuck Saletta did not own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Accenture is an Inside Value selection. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.