Visa (V) -- Visa is one of the best-performing stocks in the market over the past year. In fact, I personally missed a chance at buying Visa last summer when a friend of mine suggested putting 20% of my capital in Visa common. His thinking was that we are moving towards a cashless society, and Visa is allowed to charge twenty cents a transaction. Retailers are willing to stomach this, because they need revenues, and with bigger ticket items, such a transaction fee is negligible. I got too caught up in the overall market and the debt ceiling madness to heed his advice, and it's to my own detriment, as the shares have since doubled.
After such a steep move, however, now may be the time to lock in some hard earned profit on Visa. While I really like this company, the valuation seems stretched at 47X earnings. Some things to watch are delinquency rates and days late. Visa's fundamental business is quite levered to the global economy and to the middle class. High rates of interest help them in good times, but can come back to bite them in bad times as consumers choose to default or declare bankruptcy instead of paying off their credit card debt.
Additionally, Visa's CEO is leaving in March when his contract expires, and the company may face difficulties with Dodd Frank and also with worldwide changes in laws barring predatory lending. Many countries are passing "usury" laws against things like 24% per year interest rates, which would inevitably hurt Visa's bottom line. While I do think Visa may be interesting from the short side, I would attack this "good" company as a hedge or pairs trading partner from a short selling perspective versus and out and out directional short. Visa may end up crumbling under the weight of European debt woes and a struggling economy here at home if and when the stock market takes another dive.
Book Value and dividend yields here also leave a lot to be desired. Visa has just 4 Billion in Tangible Equity versus 12.8 Billion in Liabilities. While the company's payment division is collecting record fees and should grow with the rise in cashless transactions, any hiccup on the liability side of the ledger could leave investors at current prices feeling blue.
Tesla Motors (TSLA) -- While I personally love their electric sports cars, this company has been disappointing from an operating profit point of view. Most of the time, groundbreaking ideas make investors substantial amounts of money in the stock market, but sometimes heady valuations mixed with overzealous expectations lead to heartache. Tesla is valued at around $4 Billion by the current stock market, while the company is losing around $100 Million per quarter. The company's balance sheet is downright perplexing, as the business is operating at a net deficit of $27 Million while it has racked up around $835 Million in liabilities. While Elon Musk is a capable and talented leader, and I respect him for purchasing a million bucks of his own stock recently, I am worried by the substantial, relentless dumping of TSLA common by company insiders over the past two years. All in all, I like the cars and love the idea but would stay away from the stock.
Facebook (FB) -- Another awesome company with an extended valuation. While I wouldn't short Facebook, I don't think now is the time to buy either, after a pretty strong move from $19 and change to the current $27 and change price tag. Facebook is still trading at 140X last year's earnings and 47X EV/EBITDA, which means that it's not exactly a "value stock" based on earnings. The 32% top line growth is impressive, however, and I wouldn't count the company out. All in all, we would avoid Facebook shares or sell them, though we don't suggest taking out a huge short position on the stock unless it's part of a pairs trade or hedging program.