Much like companies that are rising past their fair values, we can often 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 see whether the market has overreacted to a company's bad news.
Here's a look at three fallen angels trading near their 52-week lows that could be worth buying.
Chips and dips
It's been far from a November to remember for chipmaker Qualcomm (QCOM -0.18%), which saw its stock nosedive by nearly 9% after reporting weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings results two weeks ago.
For the quarter, Qualcomm saw its revenue rise 3% year over year but dip 2% from the sequential third quarter. The story was similar for its net income, which jumped 25% year over year but fell 15% from the sequential quarter. The problem for Qualcomm is that it's facing a growing number of legal battles in China, the U.S., and Europe that have halted some lucrative licensing payments to the company and threaten to slow its steady growth rate.
Specifically, China's National Development and Reform Commission is examining whether or not Qualcomm's licensing business, along with its chipmaking business (Qualcomm is currently the leading baseband provider in the world), would create a monopoly within the country. If the NDRC's decision goes against Qualcomm, it could significantly inhibit Qualcomm's growth potential in what is becoming the world's most important wireless market.
Additionally, U.S. regulators are looking into the "fair and reasonable commitments" of Qualcomm's licensing division, while the EU is investigating various types of financial incentives related to its baseband business. All told, Qualcomm's sales and profits are forecast to come up short until these probes are put in the rearview mirror.
Despite this, I view Qualcomm as an intriguing value stock after its latest tumble and would highly encourage value investors to give the company a closer look.
To begin with, Qualcomm's bread-and-butter chipmaking business continues to grow despite its licensing issues. The latest quarter saw its chip business expand 9% to $4.85 billion, and I anticipate this is a trend that's unlikely to slow down anytime soon. As the world's leading provider of wireless chipset technology, Qualcomm is certain to benefit from rising global handset sales.
Secondly, the rise of the Internet of Things -- in English, the interconnectivity of various devices in our lives, such as home electronics and our automobiles -- will mesh perfectly with Qualcomm's dominance in wireless technologies. Most companies haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the Internet of Things, so this could be a multidecade growth opportunity for Qualcomm.
Finally, don't forget that Qualcomm is fortifying its investors against downside with a fast-growing dividend. Over the past decade Qualcomm's dividend has grown sixfold to $0.42 per quarter and is just shy of having doubled over the past three years. Compounded with the stock's recent swoon, that quarterly payout is netting shareholders a delectable 2.4% yield. Imagine how quickly your money could grow if that dividend were reinvested back into Qualcomm stock!
A newly refined value stock
In general, it's been a rough couple of months for any company associated with the energy industry. With oil prices sinking to four-year lows, fears are spreading that we could see integrated oil and gas operators cutting back on production. Any cutback could eventually trickle its way down to midstream and downstream operators, and in a worst-case scenario, it may be a predictor that something is amiss with the U.S. or global economy.
One company that has really taken it on the chin since the beginning of September is oil refiner and marketer Phillips 66 (PSX 4.28%). Shares have lost 20% since hitting a 52-week high, and they've continued to head lower despite a stronger-than-expected third-quarter earnings report. Investors are worried that weaker oil prices will result in lower production, which can have an adverse effect on Phillips 66's top and bottom lines.
However, what Phillips 66's third-quarter earnings results showed is that there's more to this company than meets the eye. The company's refining business in particular could be poised to see incredible strength in the coming quarters thanks to rapidly falling oil prices that have caused crack spreads to move noticeably higher. What this means for Phillips 66, which gets close to 30% of its revenue from its refining operations, is significantly better margins and profitability even if its revenue misses the mark. By a similar token, Phillips 66's marketing and specialties business, as well as its petrochemicals division, should continue to benefit from weaker oil prices as input costs fall.
Like Qualcomm, Phillips 66 is also a cash flow cow that's poised to deliver a top-quality dividend to shareholders. Since being spun-off in 2012 its dividend payout has increased four separate times and by 150% overall to $0.50 per quarter. Currently paying a projected yield of 2.8%, Phillips 66 is divvying out a nice premium to the S&P 500's yield of around 2%.
Lastly, considering the probability that Phillips 66 continues to trounce Wall Street's estimates as oil prices remain depressed, the company's valuation -- less than 10 times forward earnings and a PEG ratio of just 0.8 -- adds more fuel to the value stock fire. For reference, most refiners have P/Es in the mid-teens.
If you're looking for a way to play this recent dip in oil, Phillips 66 could be your stock.
Let there be light!
Lastly, I'm going to prove that you can't let your emotions get in the way of finding high-quality value stocks and suggest you dig deeper into a company that I've been waving the caution flag on for years: First Solar (FSLR -0.96%).
The maker of solar systems has been hammered over the past two months, losing about a third of its value as reduced production guidance from some of its peers, as well as expected delays in overseas and domestic solar projects, has weighed on the company. Furthermore, while weaker oil prices are a boon for refiners like Phillips 66, they're bad news for First Solar, which is relying on high fossil fuel prices to encourage businesses to make the switch to solar. If fossil fuels keep losing value, First Solar's pricing may have to drop to entice customers to make the switch.
Despite this recent weakness, I see plenty of light at the end of the tunnel for this solar value stock.
Topping the list is First Solar's third-quarter earnings results, released two weeks ago. First Solar kept its production guidance, operating cash flow, and EPS guidance unchanged, while actually upping its gross margin forecast and its operating income guidance. The only negative was that First Solar reduced the top and bottom of its sales forecast by $100 million each to $3.6 billion-$3.9 billion, which it mostly blamed on temporary project delays. In other words, while its peers are cutting guidance, First Solar is powering through with stronger margins and holding to its profitability forecast.
Another key point is that First Solar's balance sheet and valuation are gems compared to those of its overseas peers. First Solar is sporting about $900 million in net cash (nearly 19% of its current market value), trading right around its book value, and being priced at less than 11 times forward earnings. Even considering a lack of near-term order visibility throughout much of the sector (even though that has not been a problem for First Solar), a forward P/E of less than 11 is pretty inexpensive!
Finally, long-term trends favor the growing use of alternative energies and a push away from fossil fuels. As fossil fuels become more finite, their price is likely to head higher, placing even more importance on renewable energies like solar. Simply put, few companies have anywhere near the production and efficiency capabilities of First Solar.