The rise of the "New Tech" mania in what appears to be a speculative bubble in shares of OpenTable (OPEN), Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG), Travelzoo (TZOO), and many other pumped up stocks with astronomical valuations, has sucked money out of the Ciscos of the world and has investors hyper-focused on recent quarterly growth figures.
This is actually a gift for the astute value investor, as there may be a strong value investment opportunity in shares of the old guard technology names that have solid market share and strong historical earnings. These companies already own the markets they are in, and don't rely on some speculative story or innovation "revolution" to deliver shareholder value -- they already print money like Ben Bernanke. For some bizarre reason, investors today shun cheap stocks and buy companies that are markedly overvalued. That's okay for investors like me-- who actually view stocks as a claim on future cash flows-- because the following 14 technology stocks are completely unloved by Wall Street and may remain that way for some time due to the current bubble forming in the darlings in the space. The bubble in "new tech" will someday pop, but the distaste for the companies that ruled these markets for the past decade has made the "old tech" stocks dirt cheap in comparison.
Listed below are fourteen stocks that represent good values on a price to earnings basis in my view, although I admit that I may be wrong about the old tech / new tech paradigm in the end. In the paragraphs below, I discuss why they are unloved and how to buy them with a margin of safety using covered calls and put option writing programs to protect capital and profit from option time decay.
Intel (INTC) -- Intel has been crushed recently on Japan concerns, worries about tablet computing, the growth of Apple eating into its processor business, and the general trend in the technology space that favors anything "new" over anything old. Intel is the quintessential "legacy" tech stock that, despite its incredible YOY growth rate, is treated like a buggy whip maker. INTC may be a value trap if these fears prove worthy, so investors may want to sell the May $20 call options against their stock positions or sell the January 2012 $19 put options instead of buying the stock to provide a deeper margin of safety in the name. One thing is certain, INTC shares are dirt cheap.
Research In Motion (RIMM) -- Has been completely crushed because of "poor earnings guidance" and the belief that its tablet computers and slow move into the 4G space will crush the company's longer term market share. As a Blackberry user, I believe this fear is overdone and that RIMM provides a nice value price point for the everyday cell phone user who is not looking to write the great American novel on their handheld device, but merely needs to make phone calls and send text messages. RIMM may be able to sell more value priced products in the emerging markets versus the competitio,n and with earnings projected to come in at $7.70 per share this year, the stock may be poised for a significant rally. Investors looking to protect the downside should look to sell the Jan. 2012 $50 put options instead of buying the stock directly.
Microsoft (MSFT) -- Mister Softy is living up to its nickname these days, as patient long term investors in the stock have been utterly abused by the price action of this legacy tech stock. Like Intel and Research In Motion, MSFT has lagged the overall market by a significant degree and investors looking to add exposure here should consider selling the January 2012 $25 put options for a solid 10% return on their risk.
Cisco (CSCO) -- Cisco is another long forgotten technology name that everyone continues to "hate passionately", as Charlie Sheen might say. It is my opinion that most investors should love this stock passionately because it is trading for just 9.9X forward earnings and has exhibited strong historical growth. The best way to play Cisco in my view is to sell the January 2012 $17.50 put options for $1.74 per contract, or a greater than 10% return on your risk.
Google (GOOG) -- Google is a much hated tech name right now, as the departure of the CEO and the switch in Search Engine Optimization away from content farms has somehow crushed investor demand and appetite for the stock. Even though both of these developments can be seen as assets to the company rather than liabilities, in today's markets companies with strong assets are sold and companies which present investors with a pipe dream are purchased. GOOG stock may be a good buy on the recent weakness, but investors may want to protect capital by selling a May $540 put option instead of going all in on the stock. As someone who was skeptical of GOOG over the years when it boasted a 100 PE ratio, it is a pleasure to own the name via short puts now that it trades for just 14.8X forward earnings while growing at a 21% or higher YOY growth rate.
Apple (AAPL) -- Apple's bellwether stock has been hammered in recent sessions due to the decision by Powershares to rebalance the QQQ. No matter how many times they change the QQQ stock symbol or reboot the weightings, AAPL seems to make sense at a certain price for many investors. With that said, the company is starting to look a bit too big to grow at a fast pace as the law of large numbers will eventually hurt investors looking to buy it at a PE above 20. That said, shares of Apple represent a lot better value than some of the favorite momentum stocks that the herd is buying right now.
Hewlett Packard (HPQ) -- Hewlett Packard is an interesting stock, even though it is a less than interesting company in many respects. In my view, the company should have fined Mark Hurd and let the legal system deal with his personal issues instead of playing the morality card and firing him over alleged sexual harassment charges. The board made a big mistake in my view, as Hurd was a good leader for the business at a time that requires strong leadership given the rush "to the cloud" that has punished legacy tech shares and boosted companies with little to no earnings who operate in the space. HPQ is dirt cheap on earnings with a 7X forward earnings multiple, although the business is less attractive from a book value standpoint in that it really has little in the way of current net asset value. With that said, little to no tangible book and a 7X forward multiple is still a much better deal than many of the "new" technology names hitting 52 week highs everyday.
EBIX -- EBIX is actually a "new" technology stock trading at an old technology valuation, which makes the company very interesting from a bottoms up, fundamental perspective. Shares of the company were recently hammered, falling 25% from 27 to 22 or so per share, after a fellow SA contributor suggested that the financial statements of the company are not accurate. Anyone who knows what Barry Minkow is dealing with in his Lennar saga should be careful before accusing a company of fraud, so it will be interesting to see what happens to EBIX going forward. If you believe the financial statements of EBIX, as I do, the company represents a strong growth market in the cloud computing space. Investors may be prudent to use the large share price drop to sell at the money leap put options on EBIX for a nearly 15% return by January of 2012. Covered calls also seem prudent here, as well as a bull put spread, which consists of selling the $24 Jan. 2012 puts and buying the $19 Jan 2012 puts-- for example-- to define your risk.
Nanometrics (NANO) -- Nanometrics is a diversified technology manufacturer whose shares have recently been under pressure-- even though the stock trades for just 7.26X trailing earnings. Nano sports a PEG ratio of just .51, although forward earnings are predicted by the analysts community to fall, giving NANO a forward PE ratio of 9.75X. Ben Graham used to advocate for avoiding stocks of firms who have lost money in past years, and NANO has suffered losses over the past three years before recently turning around with last quarter's revenue growing at an impressive 75% YOY rate. Investors in NANO (currently trading $17.69) should consider selling the September $17 put options for a whopping $2.25 per contract instead of buying the stock outright. A ratio spread strangle also looks smart (selling 30 of the September $17 puts and selling 10 of the June $18 or $19 calls for example).
Synnex Corporation (SNX) -- Synnex Corporation is likely suffering because -- for one -- it operates in the business software, services, logistics, as well as financial services industries, and also because its corporate name sounds like more like a nasal spray than a technology powerhouse. SNX stock, however, appears to be relatively cheap trading for a small premium to book value and 9.66X trailing earnings. Analysts have the company pegged at a 7.88 forward PE, and with a .88 PEG ratio SNX appears to be a cheap stock. EV/EBITDA of 6.84X also warrants further investigation by the astute conservative value investor. One drawback of SNX is the corporation's low net margins of 1.34% and low operating margins of just 2.32%. However, with a return on equity of nearly 13% and an inventory turnover of over 8X, the low margins are not necessarily a reason to avoid the stock entirely. Investors looking to add this cheap tech name should consider dipping their toes in the water by selling the June $35 calls against their stock position for $1.00. Although this is a relatively low yield compared to other options plays listed in this article, the higher strike still gives investors plenty of room to participate in the upside of the stock between now and June expiration.
Ingram Micro (IM) -- Ingram Micro has rallied around 10% since I first wrote about the company, but the shares are still dirt cheap with a .64 PEG ratio and a forward PE ratio of just 8.62X earnings. IM trades for a tiny premium to book value and a EV/EBITDA of only 5.11X. Like SNX, IM is a lower margin business but also boasts high inventory turnover, which is one criteria that Buffett looks for in cheap stocks with low profit margins (of course he prefers the highest margins possible). IM delivered quarter over quarter revenue growth of 12.2% over the past year, and the business sports a 10% return on equity. The options selling trades in IM appear to be fairly popular, so investors most likely want to buy and hold the name through thick and thin and sell when they have a nice enough gain to brag about it.
Oracle (ORCL) -- Oracle is not exactly Graham material, trading for over 20X earnings and over 4.7X book value. With that being said, ORCL is a classic cloud computing stock which is followed by the bright guys at Moka investors and boasts an enormous YOY quarterly growth rate of 36% on revenues and 75% plus on earnings. Whether this incredible growth can be sustained is a good question, however Larry Ellison has a knack for visionary leadership in the technology space. While many are turned off by his seemingly brash and macho antics, I personally find tremendous inspiration from any billionaire who lacks a college degree who can also call out his adversaries publicly, whether or not they have the biggest yacht in the world is a totally separate question. ORCL's 14X forward PE and 35% plus top line growth rate make the stock a good buy for aggressive growth investors looking for cloud computing exposure.
Expedia (EXPE) -- Expedia has had a tough time of late with its falling out with American Airlines and the resulting crash of the company's stock price. The shares, however, look much cheaper than direct rival Travelzoo.com (I think long EXPE and short TZOO will eventually be a phenomenal pairs trade, for example). EXPE trades for 15X trailing earnings and 11X forward earnings, which is a much better deal than TZOO even though the companies have roughly similar business models and growth rates. With an EV/EBITDA under 8X and YOY quarterly revenue growth of 15%, EXPE appears to be a good value relative to the competition in the online travel space.
JA Solar (JASO) -- JA Solar is considered to be an "alternative energy" stock but in my view all alternative energy stocks are also technology plays to some degree. JASO trades for just 4.3X earnings, which is mind bogglingly cheap. China is not about to stop promoting clean energy technology unlike the U.S., which has all but forgotten its need for a National Energy policy, it seems. Hopefully, the United States will wise up and do business with the Chinese solar firms instead of badmouthing them, as the world needs solar power to survive the current energy mess that has created unneeded pollution and a direct tax on consumers in the form of higher oil and gasoline prices. Who cares who makes the panels, what we need is cheap solar energy and JA Solar provides the cheapest panels on the market.
Disclosure: I am long RIMM, INTC, CSCO, AAPL, EBIX, MSFT, HPQ, JASO, EXPE.
Additional disclosure: Many times I am short put options in these names so the actual position is long but only if the put is excersized "in the money"...