Superlatives are synonymous with great high school memories, or maybe not so great for some. They are, however, considered vital rankings in determining your future. In an attempt to immortalize what could be a great, or very bad, year for stocks, we have outlined what we see as the 2013 superlatives for the stock market.
During Part 1 (read more here) we covered the most likely to succeed, most likely to never leave home, most likely to be president. Now it's time to cover Part 2.
Most likely to leave home after high school: This superlative embraces the stocks that will change their businesses and break from their conventional business model. Amazon.com (AMZN), the former book e-tailer, has transformed into one of the premier tech stocks. One of the biggest initiatives, in a relatively untapped market, is Amazon's entry into the TV market. Google and Apple both have made attempts to break into the market, but there continues to be a huge market opportunity.
The company has once before pivoted its business model, moving from a book business to a global e-commerce leader. Amazon is now one of the largest online retailers with one of the largest market shares. Could Amazon be the next Apple? Apple grew EPS over 60% annually over the last five years, and its stock is up 190% over the same time period.
5-Yr. EPS Growth
Price to Sales
Wall Street analysts' expect Amazon to grow EPS 50% faster than Apple over the long-term, but it trades at a 30% discount on a price to sales basis. Holding Amazon back has been concerns over whether the long-winded run, where the stock has been on a steady run since 2009 and is up 400%. I think the room to grow is there for Amazon, which has already broken into the tablet market, and owns the second spot behind iPad. The move into the tablet market only expanded its reach and customer base. It is apparent there is still a need to continue innovating.
Amazon's foresight that books would move to e-readers, and then e-readers to tablets, has been impressive. Its gamble clearly paid off, since it was able to capture large market share on the strength of its digital product offerings alone. I believe they are the less talked about dark horse to redefine the way we watch TV, and the company has the balance sheet to see it through, with cash and short-term investments of $5.25 billion and no debt at quarter-end.
Most likely to have 10 kids: This superlative includes the stock that is likely to spin off a part of its business in 2013. The most obvious candidate is News Corp. (NWSA), but our pick is Hewlett-Packard (HPQ). News Corp. is expected to separate itself into an entertainment and publishing segment, in an effort to unlock shareholder value.
Hewlett-Packard has been under quite the pressure, thanks to weakness in PC demand. The possible spinoff would include getting rid of its printer segment. Progress is being made in its software and services business, but there is robust competition in all of HP's business segments, including major competitors IBM (IBM), EMC Corp. (EMC), Dell (DELL), Apple (AAPL) and BMC Software (BMC). This alone has increased the need for a simpler business model.
With the threat of continued PC and printer decline, the best move for HP will be to focus on its server segment. Dell has similar plans, which it appears the company will have the luxury of doing without the scrutiny of the public markets. I don't see this as an option for HP, which has a market cap nearly 50% greater than that of Dell, and does not have the boost from a founder with significant ownership, like the 14% of Dell that Michael Dell owns.
The drag, including multiple compression, which the printer business brings to the company is due to the segment's pressure on profitability and slowing demand due to other low-cost printing options. Topeka Capital believes that the cash from spinning off PC and printers segments could be invested in software used for data centers to turn the company into a growth story. What's more is that UBS believes the stock would be valued at $20 if it did choose to do such a spinoff that included the computer and printer businesses.
Most likely to end up in jail: The stock most likely to become nonexistent in 2013. Circuit City went into bankruptcy without a fight, and it appears that RadioShack Corporation (RSH) could go down a similar path. The stock recently ended its partnership with Target to offer mobile devices in Target stores.
The retailer is already facing pressure in sales and earnings. Last quarter, the company managed to lose some $47 million. Its elevated costs have been related to a transition from an adverse product mix toward low-margin smartphones.
RadioShack has much pressure from key rivals, namely Wal-Mart (WMT) and Best Buy (BBY), where Best Buy is rolling out small format mobile stores. Best Buy has plans to open 600 to 800 stores within a period of 5 years, which will more directly compete with RadioShack.
The core retail businesses of RadioShack, namely consumer electronics, have been in a downward spiral, with revenues for the segment failing 22% last quarter on a year over year basis. Gross margin has also been in decline, thanks again to its shift toward lower margin smartphones. For 3Q 2012, the retailer's gross margin was 36% compared to 42% in 3Q 2011.
Just as there was no savior for Circuit City in 2008, the same may well happen to RadioShack. The retailer has seen downgrades by all three major credit rating agencies, S&P, Moody's and Fitch to negative outlooks. Wall Street analysts expect earnings to be in decline around 150% annually for the next five years. What's intriguing is that the liquidation value may well leave a funding cap, where little to no value would be left for shareholders, leaving the company still owning money to debtors.
Most likely to get married: This stock is most likely to be merged or acquired in 2013. First Solar (FSLR) is down over 80% the last five years, and is now only trading at $2.7 billion market cap. After trading below $12 in 2012, the solar stock is rebounding nicely, now up over $30 on the back of increased guidance and key acquisitions.
The majority of the major solar players are located in China, whereas First Solar is based in the U.S. First Solar would be a great addition for certain alternative energy or oil & gas heavy companies, or even a diversified products company like General Electric (GE). MidAmerican Energy was rumored to be considering a buyout of First Solar in 2012. A buyout would be ideal for First Solar, where a larger company could more efficiently fund First Solar's inherently capital intensive and long-term projects. SunPower (SPWR), another major solar company, saw Total SA (TOT) agree to purchase 60% of its shares back in 2011 at a 50% premium over the stock's previous closing price.
Recent news shows how viable solar energy could be, where El Paso has chosen to buy electricity from First Solar in New Mexico, covering 18,000 households, for $0.0579 per kilowatt-hour, which is well below the $0.128 per kilowatt-hour for the average cost for coal plants.
First Solar has been undergoing restructuring since April of 2012 to help refocus production and revamp operations. The company expects the restructuring to reduce costs in the range $100 million $120 million going forward. The restructuring has paid off and now the balance sheet appears strong, with long term debt-to-capitalization of 14.7% at the end of the third quarter of 2012, and with $614 million of cash, compared to long-term debt of $468 million.
SandRidge Energy (SD) is another potential buyout candidate, one that has underperformed of late, and is down 90% since its 2008 peak. Read more about the potential value in SandRidge. This mid-cap oil and gas play operates in the robust Bakken area, and could be a solid buyout candidate with potential suitors including Exxon (XOM), Chevron (CVX) or any of the major oil and gas operators looking to gain more exposure to the natural gas market.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.