Back on August 12th, CNBC’s Jim Cramer discussed a variety of stocks that appeared ready for a downturn. Let’s see how 5 of them have performed since then:
Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) – Disliked at $14.87; trading at $14.22 at the time of this writing. Like IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), Dell is focusing more on providing services than hardware these days. The higher margins that things like maintenance and hardware support provide simply can’t be ignored by company management. Dell has actually been focusing on smaller service contracts than some of its rivals, and while we’re not sure if this is the best business practice, it does mean one thing: There’s a good chance that this stock is trading at a discount. While the biggest headlines will go to other companies, look for DELL stock to slowly creep upward as the company continues to grab more and more market share. That doesn’t mean everything over at Dell is rosy right now though. The company’s hardware business isn’t quite as strong, and some tech-savvy companies like Facebook and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) are even building their own server hardware. As for value metrics, DELL comes in between IBM and HPQ for measures like price to earnings and price to sales. Price/earnings to growth is the highest of the bunch though, and overall margins aren’t terrific either. Gross margin is 21.53% and operating margin is 7.61%. Additionally, quarterly revenue growth (year over year) is a mere 0.80%.
LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) – Disliked at $91.22; trading at $82.78 at the time of this writing. This was a wise call by Cramer, and yet this company’s innovativeness cannot be ignored. For instance, LinkedIn is now teaming up with Taleo (NASDAQ:TLEO) to help LinkedIn users apply for jobs using Taleo’s talent management software. One feature is called LinkedIn Profile Upload. This is good for LinkedIn users because it lets them easily apply to jobs posted using Taleo, and it’s good for employers using Taleo because they’ll receive more applications. Another feature being introduced is LinkedIn Preview. This essentially allows recruitment tools on LinkedIn to interact with recruitment tools on Taleo, which again means both companies should benefit. Another important player in the career-related Internet services is Monster Worldwide (NYSE:MWW). Although price to earnings for LinkedIn and Monster are both in the triple digits, Monster’s price/earnings to growth and price-to-sales ratios have come back down to reasonable levels. The same can’t really be said for LinkedIn, which as a price/earnings to growth ratio of 97.82 and a price-to-sales ratio of 22.22. It seems unlikely that LinkedIn is worth that much, although it’s obviously hard to say at this point. If nothing else, LinkedIn’s margins are quite strong – gross margin is 82.74% and operating margin is 6.21%.
Network Appliance (NASDAQ:NTAP) – Disliked at $43.42; trading at $36.29 at the time of this writing. Another good call by Cramer, some shareholders are excited about this stock regardless because of its partnership with VMware (NYSE:VMW). The idea here is that NetApp brings to the table its data storage solutions and VMware brings its cloud computing software. In fact, one of NetApp’s vice presidents Chris Cummings had this to say: “For many, there's substantial upside to evolving from a virtualized environment to a cloud architecture. NetApp and VMware are delivering a secure, integrated solution that allows customers to build on their virtualized environments without having to rip and replace their current IT infrastructures.” Essentially, the idea here is that NetApp and VMware can make their products even more effective by simply teaming up. Besides NetApp, other important storage companies include EMC and Hewlett-Packard. Using measures like price to earnings, price to sales, and price/earnings to growth, H-P is vastly cheaper than these other two companies, although NetApp’s and EMC’s metrics are about the same. Additionally, NetApp has a slightly better gross margin than EMC, while EMC has a slightly better operating margin. As for cash flows, NetApp brought in $1.052 billion for the fiscal year ending April 29th.
Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) – Disliked at $13.48; trading at $13.87 at the time of this writing. Although not a favorite of Cramer’s, Staples was recently upgraded by Zacks. That report states the primary reason for the upgrade was strong results during Q2. The company is also focusing on cutting costs and improving margins, which are two things that should be able to be accomplished. The biggest concern though is the economy, as many of the products that Staples sells are quite cyclical. Additionally, some writers didn’t think Staples’ earnings report was all that great, as discussed here. That article explains why Staples’ cash conversion cycle may be problematic. Other important players in the office retail business are of course Office Depot (NASDAQ:ODP) and OfficeMax (NYSE:OMX). Office Depot actually has negative trailing twelve-month income, although OfficeMax has been a bit healthier. Both companies offer significantly lower price-to-sales ratios than Staples, although price to earnings and price/earnings to growth are a bit higher for OfficeMax. Staples takes the cake in margins though – gross margin is 30.05% and operating margin is 6.35%. Cash flows have been a bit weak for Staples: $638 million flowed out of the company during the 6 months ending July 30th, although dividends, stock repurchase, and debt retirement paid a large role in that.
Sysco (NYSE:SYY) – Disliked at $29.26; trading at $26.80 at the time of this writing. At least one Seeking Alpha writer likes this stock though, as found here. The stock is historically cheap using value metrics, and dividend yield of 3.9% is pretty solid. Improving margins and revenue growth are another couple of things to like about SYY. Additionally, SYY’s balance sheet is rock-solid right now. Sysco has also been in the news for what is known as a “mini-tender offer” that was made by TRC Capital. The details can be found here, but essentially management has said that the offer to buy as many 3.5 million shares of SYY is simply too low. SYY earnings were also released not too ago. Sysco actually had record-high revenue, although net earnings were in line with expectations. Many of Sysco’s closest competitors are privately owned, although SYY price-to-earnings ratio and price-to sales ratio are about in line with the food industry overall. Price/earnings to growth is a bit high – that number is 2.10. Additionally, margins are about average – gross margin is 18.62% and operating margin is 4.91%. As for cash flows, Sysco brought in $54.32 million for the fiscal year ending July 2.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.