By Larry Gellar
These particular stocks are industry leaders and have a unique catalyst that investors currently view as a cloud but instead should be viewed as an opportunity. First on the list, Verizon (VZ), is handling the uncertainty of the proposed merger of its duopoly counterpart, AT&T (T), and also has 4G LTE in the works. ConocoPhillips (COP) investors are weighing a company split. US Bancorp (USB) has introduced a mobile phone-based credit card. These companies have a key event that investors are unwisely ignoring. Sophisticated investors could profit handsomely by ignoring the noise and focusing on the true investment catalyst behind these companies. As always, please the research below as starting point for your own due diligence:
Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) has been trending upward, although most of the big headlines for the mobile industry have revolved around Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone 4S. Verizon is of course one of the carriers for the new phone, so we expect it to benefit accordingly. AT&T’s (T) acquisition of T-Mobile also remains in the news. The FCC is still working on getting an explanation from AT&T about how the plan would actually create jobs, especially since common sense would dictate that this type of merger should allow for layoffs.
Additionally, numerous state attorney generals have supported the Department of Justice’s decision to block the deal for the time being. Back to Verizon though, the company is continuing to make headways with its 4G LTE. Here’s what one regional president, Kevin Zavaglia, had to say:
We are proud to bring the largest 4G LTE network in the nation to the San Joaquin Valley and help lead residents, small businesses and local government into the next generation of wireless connectivity and communication.
As for value metrics, Verizon offers low ratios price/earnings to growth and price to sales, although price to earnings is significantly higher than AT&T. On the other hand, margins are a bit higher than AT&T with gross margin at 59.69% and operating margin at 17.57%.
ConocoPhillips (COP) hasn’t moved much lately, as investors are still contemplating the company’s proposed split. This would involve dividing the company into an upstream business and a downstream business, and it’s a move that we like a lot. Another piece of news for COP is that it bought the 30 percent stake that Marathon Oil (MRO) had in a liquefied natural gas export facility in Alaska.
This facility is still going to be shut down as planned, although COP is now explaining that it could reopen. Here’s what COP spokesman Natalie Lowman had to say:
It's doing a final cargo in the next month. Then, at that point, we're doing what we said we were going to do… we could resume operations to export LNG some time next year.
In fact, the only reason the facility has stayed open this long is due to the catastrophe in Japan. COP is also part of a big project in the U.K.’s part of the North Sea. We talked about that back here, but the idea behind the plan is that the Clair Ridge is expected to have quite a bit of oil. Important competitors for ConocoPhillips include BP, Chevron (CVX), and Exxon Mobil (XOM). COP’s price/earnings to growth and price to sales ratios are pretty low compared to those other stocks, although price to earnings is closer to average. Margins too are about average – gross margin is 23.43% and operating margin is 9.46%.
The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (GS) – This stock was trading for over $170 earlier in the year, but a variety of factors have brought the share price down significantly. New regulations and a tough trading climate are two of the biggest factors that come to mind.
Meanwhile, people around the world are expressing displeasure with Goldman Sachs and other investment banks. In fact, a group of students broke into Goldman Sachs’ office in Milan, although nothing too severe happened. Additionally, the earnings release from JPMorgan (JPM) has investors worried about what Goldman Sachs’ report might look like.
If nothing else, Goldman Sachs is having some tremendous success in Japan. In fact, Goldman Sachs advised $54.1 billion worth of acquisitions over there, beating out Nomura Holdings for the first time in five years. Morgan Stanley (MS) is another big competitor for Goldman Sachs. That stock offers about the same price/earnings to growth ratio as Goldman Sachs, but price to sales is somewhat lower. Cash flows for Goldman Sachs have been strong though - $1.497 billion came in during 2010 and $5.645 billion came in during the first half of 2011. This has mostly been fueled by a high net income, and Goldman Sachs has done a good job of keeping outflows under control.
U.S. Bancorp (USB) has had some volatility lately, although this company is beating out some of the bigger banks in the innovation department. U.S. Bank (a subsidiary of U.S. Bancorp) has introduced what is essentially a credit card on a mobile phone. Here’s how Dominic Venturo, one of the top execs at U.S. Bank, explained it:
The new U.S. Bank Card app provides our existing credit card partners, such as REI, the opportunity to enhance their relationship with their customers by moving the card-opening process from the checkout lane to the front of the store, using mobile technology.
U.S. Bank CEO Richard Davis also recently had some comments about the economy. He doesn’t think we’ll see a double-dip recession, but he does admit that this maybe the slowest recovery we’ve ever seen. Important competitors for U.S. Bancorp include Bank of America (BAC) and Wells Fargo (WFC). Price to earnings and price/earnings to growth are both negative Bank of America, although Wells Fargo is cheaper than U.S. Bancorp in both of those regards.
On the other hand, investors may want to watch out for U.S. Bancorp’s price to sales ratio of 3.11. Operating margin of 38.18% and quarterly revenue growth of 23.3% are two of the stock’s more desirable statistics, however.
Intel Corporation (INTC) has been climbing steadily, although the company is suffering a couple of setbacks. It just announced that it would not be going forward with its plans to make chips for TVs, and now reports are coming out that Intel’s chips are nowhere to be found in the new iPhone 4S. The company was previously making baseband chips for the iPhone through its Infineon subsidiary, which was purchased earlier in the year.
On the other hand, the semiconductor industry as a whole remains strong. The Semiconductor Industry Association reported that semiconductor sales increased in September compared to both August and the previous September. That’s especially good news because some analysts believe that demand for PCs is falling.
Meanwhile, some of Intel’s operations are doing particularly well, such as the ones related to data centers and new laptop processors that are extremely light. Important competitors for Intel include Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Texas Instruments (TXN). While Intel’s price to earnings and price/earnings to growth are both reasonable, price to sales is pretty high at 2.54. Margins are quite strong though – gross margin is 63% and operating margin is 33.55%. Additionally, quarterly revenue growth year over year is 21.10%.