Potential exists in low ratios
For a dozen years, I've been bringing you an annual bouquet of stocks that sell for less than book value.
Last year's collection showed a total return of 49.1 percent from Nov. 13, 2012, through Nov. 8, 2013. The gain in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index for those same dates was 31.6 percent.
Book value is simply corporate net worth, a company's assets minus its liabilities. It is usually expressed per share of common stock outstanding.
Divide the stock price by book value and you have the price-to-book ratio. A ratio of 1.5 is low, and 1.0 or below is very low — and possibly a bargain.
My selections from a year ago generated the following returns (including dividends): Quad Graphics Inc. (QUAD), up 90.7 percent; MetLife Inc. (MET), up 63 percent; Allstate Corp. (ALL), up 45.1 percent; Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL), up 26.6 percent; and Loews Corp. (L), up 20.3 percent.
Of course, I don't expect to do that well every year. But the long-term track record is encouraging.
I've compiled a low price-to-book list annually from 1998 on, with a time-out from 2007 to 2009. So I've done 12 lists in all, not counting the one you're going to read today.
The average total return on these selections has been 17.7 percent, compared with 9.4 percent for the S&P 500.
My low price-to-book recommendations have beaten the S&P 500 seven times out of 12, and generated a profit eight times out of 12.
Bear in mind that these are paper recommendations, and don't reflect trading costs or taxes. Past performance doesn't indicate future results. And the performance of my column picks shouldn't be confused with real-money returns I earn for clients.
That said, here are five picks of stocks selling below book value. These stocks are, almost by definition, out of favor with investors. But I think they have good potential for gains over the next 12 months or more.
Reinsurance Group of America Inc.
Reinsurance Group of America Inc. (RGA) of Chesterfield, Mo., is subject, like all reinsurance companies, to the whims of hurricanes, floods, tornados and the like. As an insurer's insurer, a reinsurance company is bound to have considerable earnings fluctuation from year to year.
However, at today's valuations, I feel the risk-reward ratio looks good at RGA. The stock sells for 0.7 times book value, 0.5 times revenue and nine times earnings. These are multiples that make a bargain hunter's mouth water.
Petrobras Argentina SA
Speculative but interesting is Petrobras Argentina SA (PZE), an Argentine oil company traded in the United States as an American Depositary Receipt. The risks are high, including the risk of another Argentine default on its sovereign debt, which could disrupt the already shaky business climate there.
But on the plus side, Petrobras Argentina has a decent balance sheet, good prospects for new fields, and dirt-cheap valuations: 0.6 times book value, 0.4 times revenue, and nine times earnings.
OmniVision Technologies Inc. (OVTI), based in Santa Clara, Calif., makes imaging chips used in mobile-phone cameras and other applications. It showed eye-popping growth in sales and earnings a few years ago. Growth has now slowed to respectable.
I think OmniVision is likely to surprise analysts on the upside, and I find its valuations – 0.9 times book value, 0.5 times revenue and 12 times earnings — attractive.
Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc.
Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., with headquarters in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, sells fresh bananas, pineapples and other produce. It may benefit from a trend toward healthier eating, though there is always more talk than action on that score.
I've owned the stock in the past. It often appears cheap, and seems so now, at 0.8 times book, 0.4 times revenue and 14 times earnings. The risk is that it may be permanently cheap. On balance, I think it's a good choice in a bull market that is now four-and-a-half years old.
Lastly, I recommend Stealth Gas Inc. (GASS), a Greek shipping company that specializes in transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG). The Greek economy is a shambles, but the tanker market in general, and the LNG market in particular, are worldwide markets.
Nine analysts follow Stealth Gas, and all nine recommend it, five of them strongly. That's not necessarily a plus in my book, because I prefer stocks that are more undiscovered.
However, it's some comfort when we're dealing with a small-capitalization ($348 million) stock in an economically unstable country. It's also nice to know that the analysts foresee a jump in earnings from about 80 cents a share this year to perhaps $1.27 next year. And of course, 0.7 times book value is a mighty pleasing multiple.
John Dorfman is chairman of Thunderstorm Capital in Boston and a syndicated columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger says Saints game is ‘must win’
- S&P 500 logs 47th record high close for year
- Pedestrian dies in North Side accident, authorities say
- DVD reviews: ‘The Giver,’ ‘The Expendables 3’ and ‘What If’
- Penguins notebook: Bennett to miss about 2 weeks
- Steelers cornerback Taylor ready to swap earpiece for helmet
- Pirates notebook: Autographs to come at a cost at PirateFest
- Man charged with impersonating doctor for free Nemacolin stay
- Book fair to benefit North Hills School District, Make-A-Wish
- James Taylor coming to Consol on Nov. 29
- In ‘StockCity,’ real investing like game