Just as we often examine companies that may be rising past their fair values, we can also find companies trading at what may be bargain prices. While many investors would rather have nothing to do with stocks wallowing at 52-week lows, I think it makes a lot of sense to determine whether the market has overreacted to a company's bad news, just as we often do when the market reacts to good news.
Here's a look at three fallen angels trading near their 52-week lows that could be worth buying.
It's good to be the middleman
In some industries it's great to cut the middleman out of the equation, because it can ultimately save a business money. For the oil and gas industry, cutting midstream companies out of the loop is simply out of the question, which makes me intrigued by QEP Midstream Partners (UNKNOWN:QEPM.DL), a limited partnership formed by QEP Resources, one of the fastest growing oil and gas companies in the U.S.
Weakness in midstream companies is to be expected with West Texas Intermediate oil prices hitting four-year lows and falling below $80 per barrel. It's at this level where oil and gas producers could actually consider scaling back their production since oil recovery isn't nearly as profitable. With Saudi Arabia unwilling to bend on its own production, reduced output in the U.S. may have to persist for quite some time before WTI prices correct notably higher. For midstream companies, this could mean a reduced need for transport and storage.
Even so, it's not as if energy demand in the U.S. is shrinking. There will continue to be steady demand for oil and natural gas, which is where QEP Midstream Partners comes into play.
QEP Midstream transportation assets are located near some of the most lucrative shale formations in the U.S., including the Williston Basin, the Uinta Basin, and the Green River Basin in the north central United States. These are high-quality, liquid-rich shale formations, and when oil does begin to reverse course, the oil and gas providers in this region won't be shy about ramping up their production.
In addition, QEP Midstream's transportation contracts are locked in for the long term, with minimum volume requirements from its clients. Furthermore, its services are indexed to inflation, insuring that QEP Midstream shareholders can count on some level of minimal cash flow each quarter. It also makes the company's cash flow more predictable than that of its peers.
With a dividend yield around 8%, the perfect geographic location to be a midstream company, and a bright future with U.S. energy demand expected to rise, this value stock is worth a deeper dive.
Cleared for takeoff
I'm normally not a fan of chasing after a stock following an earnings warning, but sometimes exceptions can be made, as in the case of medical air transport provider Air Methods (NASDAQ:AIRM).
To be frank, Air Methods reported a pretty ugly quarter compared to what Wall Street had been expecting. In October the company issued its preliminary guidance of $11,972 per community-based transport, down $16 from the prior-year period, and EPS of $0.83 to $0.87 per share. The company noted that despite a 7% increase in transports, a lower number of private-insurer transports and a subsequent increase in government-sponsored patient transports (which pay less) hurt its net income. By comparison, Wall Street had been expecting a robust $1.07 per share profit.
Last week, Air Methods reported $0.90 in EPS on revenue up 10% to $277.8 million, proving things may not be as bad as the Street had expected. Yet the stock still tanked at the end of last week. I believe this could be investors' cue to get behind the controls of its value stock and get ready for takeoff.
To begin with, Air Methods is one of the few large medical transport companies in the U.S. As such, it has excellent pricing power that it can use with its private-party and cash clients to make up for gaps in payments from government-sponsored patients. The company recently announced a 3% price hike to help offset its latest unfavorable patient transport mix.
Secondly, the long-term trends are still working in the company's favor. Just as QEP Midstream can count on growing energy demand in the U.S. over the long term, Air Methods can likely expect that as the U.S. population ages, the need for air support service demand will only increase as well. This only further reinforces the company's strong pricing power.
Third, patient favorability fluctuations, and/or occasional reductions in comparable community-based patient transports, are somewhat normal. Having both occur in the same quarter is rare. As Warren Buffett might opine, this could be the perfect time to be greedy and take advantage of traders' irrational fears.
Lastly, its PEG ratio of roughly one and forward P/E of just 15 should be more than enough to entice value investors.
No need to "duck" around this value stock
Lastly, I'll turn your attention to the financial sector, which is currently home to a number of single-digit P/E stocks, so we can take a closer look at why investors should be eyeing supplemental insurance provider Aflac (NYSE:AFL).
Aflac, which generates most of its business from Japan and a smaller amount in the U.S., has been dealing with a precipitous decline in the yen, which is pushing profits lower when the company ultimately converts to, and reports in, U.S. dollars. In addition, Aflac is in the process of restructuring its management team in the U.S., looking for ways to boost growth in Japan, and dealing with near-record low lending rates, which have the effect of pressuring its net investment income. You could certainly say that Aflac hasn't had an easy go of things since the recession.
But Aflac may also be about to see its fortunes change. The end of the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing in the U.S. may mark a trough in U.S. interest rates. With the Fed expected to begin boosting its federal funds target in 2015, the prospect of seeing greater investment income returns looks real for Aflac.
Also, the company has been using its solid cash flow to reward shareholders. Regular stock buybacks have helped boost EPS (which can make a company appear cheaper), while on the dividend front, Aflac has boosted its payout to investors for 31 consecutive years. That sort of streak of dividend increases is a waving green flag signaling to investors the stability and strength of Aflac's business model and investment portfolio.
Investors also shouldn't discount the company's leading innovative products, such as cancer insurance, which could prove to be a profitable product in the 20- to 40-year-old crowd. As the company noted in its third-quarter results, its cancer product sales locations are expected to more than triple to 10,000 postal outlets this quarter. To some extent, Aflac will continue to remain at the mercy of Japan's economy, but it continues to deliver innovative new ways to protect consumers and boost its own profits.
With a forward P/E of just nine, this is a value stock you'll want to keep your eyes on.
Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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